To Do List for First-time Home Buyers

Pay off credit cards and only use 10% of your limit moving forward. You can sell large things, but don’t make any major purchases (like a car). Don’t cancel any lines of credit and don’t open any new lines of credit. Stay current on all of your bills and remember, no major purchases!

You’ll need money for the down payment (if you need to), closing costs, and escrow for insurance and taxes

A good real estate agent will guide you through the next steps so that you don’t make any errors. If you’re reading this, it’s because you got it from your local real estate agent, me! It’s also important to have an understanding of how your real estate agent is going to market your property (i.e. email, social media, MLS, open houses, etc).

Your real estate agent should provide a list of preferred lenders. (Hey, that’s me! I can help!) The lender runs your credit and gives you mortgage options and estimated rates. The lender also calculates how much you can spend on a house  based off of your debt to income ratio.

Make a list of features most important to you before you start looking. Your real estate agent will book showing for houses that match your list. Visit the homes and take notes and photos.

Make sure to test the commute, consider resale value for the home, and finally make a decision!

Offers are contingent on appraisals, home inspections and termite inspections (where applicable). Side note: you’re not “stuck” with a house that wasn’t built to code or has major structural damage that wasn’t present at the time of showing.

Make sure the house is the way that it should be, as this is your final moment to speak up if something is wrong. Bring your closing money to the table, and get ready to sign paperwork!

Congrats and enjoy your new home!

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Three ways to give your home’s curb appeal a boost

From simple upgrades to meticulous landscaping projects and replacing an outdated roof, there are dozens of options to enhance the appearance of your home’s exterior. Improvements don’t need to break the bank or take a year to complete. By focusing on three simple areas, you can change the entire look of your home that you’ll appreciate every time you pull into your driveway.

1. Landscaping

The key to curb appeal is balancing what makes you happy with what works in your community. Take a moment to observe the types of trees, plants and flowers in your surroundings and look for ways to incorporate them into your yard.

Planting flowers is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to make an impact. Flowers along the sidewalk, in front of the house, inside flower boxes, pouring out of hanging baskets, or even in berms and raised garden beds, provide a giant boost to your curb appeal. Exercise your creativity by combining plants of different height, texture and color in the same container. By sticking to perennial plants native to your environment, you will not have to worry about replanting every year.

2. Roofing

Redesigning the style and color of your roof is a dramatic and effective strategy for improving curb appeal.

“Your roof accounts for 50 percent of your home’s exterior,” says Stephen McNally, vice president of sales and marketing for TAMKO Building Product, Inc. “Updating the shingles on your roof is going to make a huge impact on the overall appearance of your home – take advantage of it.”

Start by evaluating roofing choices for compatibility with your existing siding as well as the style of your home. If your home has a busy exterior with more than one contrasting color, try adding a classic, rustic color like TAMKO’s weathered wood. The shingle’s subtle blends of color and wood-like appearance complements nearly any exterior paint color.

If your home’s exterior is a more neutral shade, try adding a vibrant colored shingle to stand out in your neighborhood. TAMKO has a large selection of classic and vibrant shingle colors and styles to meet any need. To learn more visit

3. Paint

Whether you’re updating your color scheme or applying a fresh coat, painting is an easy way to update your home’s look from the street in a big way. Depending on your budget, this project can be big or small. To make the most significant impact, consider painting the entire house. This will bring new life to paint that has lost its luster or possibly a new palette of color to incorporate into your yard. Although this project can call for a larger investment, the result will pay off in the end.

If your budget is more limited, focus on the areas that catch the eye. Give shutters and trim a fresh coat of paint, or paint the front door a bright shade of red or blue.

You don’t have to make a large investment to make a large impact. Focusing on key areas of your home’s exterior will refresh the entire appearance of the home and provide a facelift that’s within your reach.

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Committing to a mortgage with your honey? Consider these house hunting essentials

(NC) House-hunting couples have many important decisions to make together – from deciding on a new-build condo or century-old bungalow to agreeing on the ideal neighbourhood and the type of mortgage that will work best for them.

According to research from TD Canada Trust, 73% of Canadians bought or expect to buy their first home with their significant other. Since a home is the biggest purchase most couples will make, Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, provides her top three tips to ensure couples are on the same page before hitting any open houses.

  • Air out financial closets – Couples should be open and honest about their current financial situation and financial history. If anything could affect the ability to secure a loan together, afford monthly mortgage payments, or interest rate increases, be upfront about it.
  • Start on the same foot – From a home office to a kitchen made for entertaining, couples should set a budget and discuss the key characteristics they want in a home, and what they are and are not willing to compromise on.
  • Saying ‘I do’ to a mortgage – Couples need to give as much thought to their mortgage as they do to their dream home. This includes discussing the size of the down payment, amortization period, type of mortgage and payment schedule.

“The last thing couples want is an unwelcome surprise when they’re about to sign on the dotted line,” Haque said. “By speaking with a mortgage specialist well before you’ve entered the pressure-cooker of the house hunt, couples can make informed decisions that can save money and stress in the long run.”

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Beneficial supplements for the entire family

(NC) The sheer variety of natural health products available is overwhelming. What should a busy mom take? What is best for her active husband? And how can you make sure your picky little eaters get all the nutrients they need? These are common questions for many families, and Lianne Phillipson-Webb, a nutritionist, author, and mother herself, has some helpful answers.

As a busy mom of two, Lianne says she understands how important good nutrition is. “I truly believe good health starts early and must include the entire family. Kids are extremely busy, parents are stressed-out and starved for time, and as a result, a healthy diet and good nutrition can easily take the back seat,” she begins. “Our constant on-the-go lifestyles make fast, pre-packaged and processed foods the staple for many households and, unfortunately, these foods lack the nutrition necessary for growing bodies and active adults.”

To help, Lianne points out the top four natural health products that are safe and beneficial to everyone in the family:

  • Omega-3s are extremely important because the human body cannot produce them, so we have to obtain them from foods or supplementation. Studies have shown that Omega-3s have many benefits, including improving cardiovascular health and cognitive development, reducing inflammation and stabilizing mood. Foods high in omega-3 include flax seeds, walnuts, salmon and sardines. Since these are not typically favourites for most kids, you may want to talk to your healthcare practitioner about supplementation.
  • Multivitamins are great because they are an affordable “insurance policy” for the entire family. For many families on the go, a side of vegetables is not usually served at the drive thru. Some days the only fruit your kids may get is a glass of orange juice, which is still packed with a sugary punch. If you can’t remember the last time your family sat down together for a meal or if your kids would rather clean their rooms than eat fresh fruit or vegetables, you may want to consider a multivitamin to fill any nutritional gaps.
  • Probiotics help to balance our digestive tract, which is important because a healthy digestive tract is able to eliminate harmful bacteria, toxins, and other waste products. When we make poor food choices, suffer from chronic stress and are exposed to environmental toxins, the balance in favour of good bacteria can shift, causing a variety of problems including a decreased immune system. Even if you eat well, probiotics can have many other benefits for optimal health.
  • Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles, especially in children and the elderly. There is growing evidence that vitamin D may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers. You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, in your diet (especially if you eat foods fortified with vitamin D), or by taking vitamin supplements. In Canada, from late October to March, the sun’s rays are not strong enough to produce Vitamin D in our skin, and as a result most of us are deficient in the “sunshine vitamin”. That is why the Canadian Cancer Society recommends adults talk with their doctor and consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the fall and winter months.

Finally it’s important to remember, says Lianne: “Each family is unique with different needs, which is why it’s always recommended to talk to your health care practitioner before adding any new supplements to your family’s regime.” Additional tips to keep the whole family growing and going can be found online at

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5 home-improvement projects to help sell your home

(BPT) – The real estate market has improved across much of the country, but homeowners thinking about listing their homes this summer need to stay competitive to attract buyers. Buyers are looking for long-term homes, ones they want to stay in for years while raising their children, or settling down and retiring.

To prepare your home for listing – or simply to enjoy it a few years longer – check out these top five home improvement projects you can do yourself to make your home more attractive to buyers:

1. Give the front door a new look – The front door sets the tone for your home’s curb appeal and security, and it signals how well you maintain everything else. Buyers will be walking into your home via the front door, so be sure to give them a good first impression. If your door is in good shape, you might just need to give it a refreshing new coat of paint or new hardware. But if it’s seen some wear and tear over the years, consider replacing it with a steel door – one that will show buyers your home is safe.

2. Update the most-used entryway – While the front door needs curb appeal, the garage door is traditionally the most-used door in the home. Old wooden garage doors will start to sag and the paint will peel, giving your home a run-down look. Replacing this door with an insulated steel door will not only improve the exterior look of your home, but also keep the garage space warmer. Finishing off the garage can also be a big draw for buyers, but you probably won’t be able to recoup as much of the expense as you would by replacing only the garage door.

3. Add additional living space – You might not think about adding a deck as the same thing as adding an extra room to the house, but if you’re selling your home during the warmer months, that’s how buyers will see it. They’ll be able to picture themselves enjoying breakfast and picnic dinners outside, or curling up on a lounge chair with a good book on a summer afternoon. To make your deck a good selling feature, consider using ProWood Dura Color, a color-treated wood that retains its color for years. This means your buyers can easily move into your house and can enjoy the space without the annual chore of staining. estimates that homeowners can recoup 87 percent of the investment of adding a deck when they sell.

4. Create a bathroom retreat – As the smallest room in the house, the bathroom tends to cost the least to remodel. If you have a guest or master bath that can use a little help to transform into a relaxing oasis, take the opportunity to replace the flooring, add cushy rugs, paint the walls and replace the accessories with more modern styles. Faucets, showerheads, the mirror and even the toilet can all be upgraded with water-saving and stylish designs. Buyers will take note of a maintenance-free bath, making your home one they’ll remember as move-in ready.

5. Turn the backyard into a private paradise – Buyers will be visualizing themselves in your backyard when touring your home. They’re looking to see how quiet and secure the space is. Consider adding a beautiful wooden fence to enhance the privacy. It will make the home attractive to families with children and pets, and for couples who aren’t interested in having a conversation with the neighbors every time they go outside. To make your fence an attractive selling feature of the home, consider using ProWood Dura Color fence pickets or pre-built panels. The cedar-tone or redwood-tone colorant driven deep into the wood fibers will stand up to the sun’s harsh rays and won’t gray out over time, unlike cedar fencing. You can match it to the deck coloring for a beautiful accent look that connects the colors in your backyard.


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A few tips when fitting wooden flooring

Laminate and wooden flooring looks great in almost any room. If you are considering fitting the wooden flooring yourself then there are a few tips that may help you to fit it easier and may add a more professional finish to it. With some hard work, patience and the right flooring tools it may not be as difficult to achieve a good finish as you imagine.

Before laying the laminate or wooden flooring ensure that your under floor is in good condition and is as flat and bounce-free as possible. Uneven areas should try to be repaired. The flatter the surface the better the wooden flooring will look. Ideally you will want the new wooden flooring to run length-ways along your room as this looks better than width-ways, however if your existing floorboards also run length-ways it is a bad idea to fit them directly together as this can lead to joint separation and unevenness. If this is the case then fit plywood over the entire floor surface so that you have a flat surface to then work on.

Once your existing floor is ready, lay an insulating membrane across the entire flooring area. This keeps heat in the room and dampens noise when the wooden flooring is walked upon and is highly recommended. Once this has been laid you are ready to lay your new wooden flooring panels. The easiest way is to work from farthest wall from the door inwards as this is the most seen part of the room. If possible remove skirting boards and door architraves so that you can work from the wall. If this isn’t possible then beading can be fixed to these areas afterwards to give a tidy finish.

When laying the flooring panels always stagger joints by using random length flooring pieces as this will add to the strength of the flooring and the aesthetics. Ensure that all pieces are firmly locked together before re-applying skirting and architraves or adding beading. Flooring can contract and retract based on the heat of the room and moisture levels so do not fix skirting or beading to the floor. Fix skirting to the wall and fix beading to the skirting.

 by: Xander Palmer 

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Making a difference with socially responsible investing

If you regularly watch the evening news, you likely have seen stories about social activism and massive protests in support of issues like the environment. Not only are they trying to communicate directly with the public, they are also asking some corporations to change. These are noble causes that sometimes involve a level of personal risk. Another way of exacting change is by working with companies from the inside. In other words: investing in them.


According to Rosalie Vendette, senior advisor in socially responsible investment (SRI) with Desjardins Group, SRI is an emerging field that is still defining itself. “It’s really about engagement, not activism,” says Vendette. “An engaged investor seeks to persuade management to adopt more responsible environmental, social and governance practices. A common way to sway management is to draw attention to these concerns through direct dialogue. While consumers have the power to decide whether or not to buy a product, investors wield their power in a much more strategic manner. For example, companies that fail to address the environmental impact of their operations can do serious damage to both their public image and their pocketbook. Conversely, companies that reduce their environmental footprint see their stock rise in more ways than one.”


Interestingly, there remains a perception that SRIs yield lower returns because performance may be sacrificed in favour of principles. “In the medium to long term, SRI criteria have little impact on fund performance,” says Denis Dion, product manager with Desjardins Investment Fund Development Department. “A study of American funds published in the Journal of Investing found that over an 18 year-period, an index of 400 U.S. companies that met SRI criteria performed comparably to the S&P 500, which indexes 500 major U.S. corporations.”


“The point is that SRI is a paradigm shift and we’re eagerly working to spread the news,” says Vendette. “We know that this new approach will continue to transform how we have traditionally invested in companies. And ultimately, we hope that this will contribute to more sustainable corporate practices.”


To find out more about Socially Responsible Investing, speak to your financial advisor.

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