Taking Stock Of Home Repairs This Spring

205 Forest Hill Road. Currently listed by Harvey Kalles Real Estate agents Donna and Nick Thompson.

It finally seems like the snow and ice are ready to be gone for good this winter in Toronto, and that means it’s time to check your home for any damage done by the elements. Even if you (and your insurance policy) were able to survive the major ice storm we endured this season without any major problems, your home might have some bumps and bruises that you won’t discover until all the snow has melted. Here are some places to look for damage, and what to do about it.

The Roof

Ice dams are a major problem for many homeowners in Ontario. Ice dams form when water freezes over the eaves of a house, often hanging down in very long icicles that accumulate in layers over the winter. Water collects behind these dams, and without anywhere to go, it seeps in under the shingles of your roof. Over the long term, this water can also seep into your walls and cause things like buckling, staining, or rot.

There were 35 extreme cold alerts in Toronto this season, meaning that for over a month, the city was in a deep freeze. Although those days were not consecutive, many of the days surrounding the extreme cold weather alerts were below freezing. They just weren’t below -15C, which is when the City issues alerts. In short, the city was frozen for most of the winter, and even small ice accumulations had plenty of opportunity to grow. So, check your roof for damage to shingles.

If a new roof is in your future, make sure that you do everything possible to ventilate it appropriately. Warm roofs that hold heat are the primary cause of ice dams, because they help melt snow and keep water around longer in its liquid form. So, make sure your new roof is properly ventilated, and that the rest of the house is sealed. And if you really want to protect your roof, install an ice shield. While costly, ice shields provide the ultimate protection for roofs, especially those with a lot of gables or dormers where ice likes to accumulate.

The Foundation

Frost heave may sound like the feeling you have when you see yet another weather forecast predicting snow in March, but it’s actually a serious problem for foundations and roads. When water freezes from liquid to solid, it increases 9% in volume. When this happens, water from beneath the “frost front” (the depth of soil at which frost forms) is drawn upward to the surface, displacing soil.

In sandy or frost-retardant soil, this isn’t a major issue. But in soils that contain a lot of water, the ground can “heave” upward or to the side. That’s bad news for roads, and it’s not great for your foundation or your porch, either. When frozen soil adheres to a foundation wall and heaves, it’s called “adfreezing.” Adfreezing can cause damage to cement and foundation walls like cracking or displacement, and over time it can cause posts in a foundation to shift position. Keep in mind, this is the same force that cause boulders to slowly heave up within an open field. Now imagine it going to work on your house.

How do you avoid this damage? Make sure there’s good drainage around your property. Use sandy soil that is frost-retardant at the edges of your foundation. Also make sure to sink foundation posts extra-deep in the ground, where frost is less likely to penetrate. This is especially important for smaller buildings and outbuildings on your property — that cute little gardening shed or cabana doesn’t have the same deep foundation as a house with a basement, but you can still protect it from the elements.

Categories: Blog


Putting Your Home on the Silver Screen!

50 Yorkville Ave, #2402. Currently listed by Elise Kalles.

You’ve worked hard to make your home as beautiful and functional as it can be. You’ve painted, renovated, and re-decorated. And now you want to show it off. You could just throw a big “We’re Done!” party (and you probably should), but one thing you may never have considered is this: renting out your property to filmmakers.

Toronto’s filmmaking market is picking up. With shows like Orphan Black and movies like Pacific Rim being shot here, and the completion of Pinewood Studios along the lakeshore, location scouts are actively looking for attractive, interesting properties where filmmakers and television directors can tell stories. Why shouldn’t your house be immortalized on the silver screen?

This piece in the SF Gate explains how to prepare yourself and your home for possible location scouting. Here are some tips to remember, if you’re sincerely interested in giving your home its 15 (or 90, or 120) minutes of fame:

  • Talk to your insurance provider beforehand, about what they’re willing to cover. Accidents do happen on set, and you want to know what you can expect in terms of assistance.
  • Research film permits in your area to learn if a film crew can obtain a permit to film on your property. The City of Toronto has a Film, Television, and Digital Media Office that can assist you.
  • Take many, many pictures of your home from all angles, with good natural light. You should also put together a brochure or sell sheet with your home’s dimensions. This is all information you would have learned upon buying your home, and you can crib information from any brochures you kept at that time. Or, you can write up something new, and keep it in case you sell your home!
  • Offer this information to location scouts. There are multiple scouts around town, like Jason Schwartz, or Production Paradise (warning: auto play video), or Set Scouter. But those three are just the tip of the iceberg.

Having your house on film can really pay off: a daylong shoot can earn up to $3,000, even if it’s just for a print ad. And it’s easy: film crews are obliged to clean up after themselves when they leave, meaning any superficial changes they might have made to the space — such as putting up curtains or knick-knacks — are their responsibility, not yours.

So, if you’re looking for a way to make your house work for you, why not give this a try? You never know — one day you might find a super-fan who is willing to pay top dollar for the home where her favourite film was made.

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Toronto Now: How Gentrification Works Best

44 Kenwood Ave, currently listed by Harvey Kalles Real Estate agent Bram Siskind.

Toronto’s neighbourhoods are changing. Many are experiencing the sort of change generally referred to as “gentrification,” a demographic population change in a neighbourhood from lower-income to higher-income residents. Basically: as residents with higher incomes buy up properties at low prices, they slowly change the character of an area with their tastes and purchasing habits. Over time, a market develops for products and services that weren’t available in the neighbourhood before. Gentrification is why you can find a Starbucks on every corner in neighbourhoods where they didn’t exist before, and why former down-and-out spots like Ossington are now home to some of the best restaurants, bars and boutiques in the city.

People are divided on the issue of gentrification. Spike Lee hates it. Others aren’t so convinced that it’s a bad thing at all. As Justin Davidson points out for New York Magazine:

Gentrification doesn’t need to be something that one group inflicts on another; often it’s the result of aspirations everybody shares. All over the city, a small army of the earnest toils away, patiently trying to sluice some of the elitist taint off neighborhoods as they grow richer. When you’re trying to make a poor neighborhood into a nicer place to live, the prospect of turning it into a racially and economically mixed area with ­thriving stores is not a threat but a fantasy. As the cost of basic city life keeps rising, it’s more important than ever to reclaim a form of urban improvement from its malignant offshoots. A nice neighborhood should be not a luxury but an urban right.

That’s just the sort of change that’s come over Danforth East, according to The Grid. In a recent feature, The Grid investigates the gradual but persistent efforts of the Danforth East Community Association to make the neighbourhood more enjoyable for all its residents. It started in 2007, with a group of mothers with young children who wanted a place to have coffee and chat. By 2014, that group has started pop-up shops, arts fairs, and a farmer’s market. They’ve also re-vamped local businesses and drawn new boutiques to the area. So the gift shops can co-exist alongside the legacy Italian groceries. And there’s now more variety for everyone, with locally-roasted espresso shops like Red Rocket sharing space with Ethiopian restaurants that still do coffee ceremonies.

So, the key to healthy gentrification might be slow growth, with community involvement. If you’re interested in changing a neighbourhood, start small and start local. Bring all the stakeholders into the movement — the people who have been there the longest know more about the neighbourhood and how to serve it, but the newcomers have the kinds of tastes that almost everybody can appreciate. So make it a true community effort, and you’re guaranteed to create something special.

Categories: Blog


Two Important Trends in Toronto Real Estate, And Why Realtors Matter

268 St Clements Ave. Currently listed by Harvey Kalles Real Estate agents Jeffrey Joseph and Irene Joseph.

268 St Clements Ave. Currently listed by Harvey Kalles Real Estate agents Jeffrey Joseph and Irene Joseph.

Toronto’s condo market is hotter than ever, with prospective homeowners squeezed out of the semi- and detached market finding new frontiers and greener pastures in the city’s emerging lakefront vertical villages. And the low-rise market is even hotter, with bidding wars breaking out over almost every property in Toronto’s hotspots. But certain trends are guiding that growth, and it’s time we examined them.

First, prices are surging across the board, all over Canada but especially in Toronto and Vancouver. Real estate prices are skyrocketing in the semi- and detached housing markets – often referred to as the “low-rise” real estate market – with condo prices rising more slowly, but steadily. This is due in part to a lack of low-rise supply, and means that buyers who want to start building equity but aren’t comfortable engaging in a bidding war may be jumping into the condo market as a compromise – or even as a new first choice, as the Star reports.

But ironically, at the same time as prices are soaring, the market is getting more competitive in some ways… for buyers and sellers both. That competition is further enhanced by dynamic social media engagement, from the MLS to third-party sites like Zoocasa to homeowners selling their homes privately on Facebook.

To understand how social media influences the sale of homes in Toronto, we need to understand the skirmishes between Ottawa’s competition watchdogs and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Like all social media networks and major commerce websites, the MLS sits on a huge amount of data, only some of which it makes available to everyday consumers. Specifically, the MLS has access to the total sales history of each listing, but only shares it with realtors, who then give it to their clients. That’s what caused the Competition Commissioner to start digging, because in the States, historic sales data is available to consumers on multiple websites.

So, what does this mean for the role of the realtor in Toronto’s real estate market? Even if homeowners have the ability to list and sell their own homes on the MLS or on third-party sites and on social media, most don’t. Why? Because great realtors are also experienced strategists who know exactly how the market works and know how to navigate the complexities of dealing with the sale of the largest asset most people will ever own. In this market, competitive on both sides, this strategic edge is even more important. An experienced realtor can help you find the right fit and get the right terms in the deal.

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How Do Changes in Toronto Retail Reflect Real Estate Trends?

The Toronto Eaton Centre, soon to be home to a Nordstrom.

The Toronto Eaton Centre, soon to be home to a Nordstrom.

Have you noticed changes to Toronto’s retail landscape? So have we. Major luxury retailers have come to Toronto, and their arrival reflects a change in Toronto’s demographics and its tastes. Those same demographic shifts can account, on some level, for the surprising turns in Toronto’s real estate market over the past few years.
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