Gearing up for summer? Now is a great time to get your home in top shape for the months ahead. Whatever your weather, caring for your home now will help to ensure a worry-free, comfortable summer.
Inspect exterior surfaces for cracks and make any needed repairs. If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials. Repair any damaged caulk around windows and doors. Remove window screens and clean with a soft brush and soapy water. Repair any holes or tears or replace the screen material before reinstalling. Have air conditioning units serviced to ensure good operation. Promote air circulation around the unit by keeping shrubs and plants trimmed. Clear debris from gutters and eaves to allow rainwater to drain properly. Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants. Test irrigation/sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary. Clean deck and patio surfaces and seal surfaces as appropriate.
Vacuum refrigerator coils to help maintain energy efficiency. Empty dehumidifier pans and clean hoses according to the manufacturer's instructions. If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out. Adjust ceiling fans for proper balance. While you're at it, give the unit a good dusting. Switch heavy bedding out for lightweight summer fabrics. Have the winter bedding cleaned before storing. Close the chimney flue where appropriate to increase energy efficiency Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer. Check door and cabinet hinges and lubricate any that stick or squeak. Open windows on cooler days to keep fresh ai
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) just announced an increase to their default insurance rates. Anyone purchasing their home with less than a 20% down payment is required to have their mortgage insured against default. The premium charged for that insurance has increased to as much as 3.15% of the amount borrowed from the current 2.75%. What this means is that on a mortgage of $250 000 the increase will amount to an additional $1000 on your mortgage which will increase in your monthly mortgage payment.
The good news is that this doesn’t come into effect until May 1, 2014. As long as you arrange your mortgage prior to May 1, 2014 (closing date can be after May 1, 2014) you won’t be subject to this increase. Click here to read the CMHC article. Interest rates are still low and house prices continue to slowly move upwards even though sales have been down slightly over the last couple months. According to the latest announcement from Royal Lepage “housing has continued to maintain its momentum and expect a 3.7% increase in home prices this year”. The Canadian mortgage landscape seems to change monthly. Having a mortgage professional who is not only knowledgeable but passionate about all things mortgages is your best bet when it comes to offering sound advice. If you know someone that has a question about buying a home or refinancing contact me anytime.
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman says a residential towers and arts amenity project planned for South Surrey will help boost the city's economic development.
The Surrey Board of Trade has thrown its support behind a controversial two-highrise residential development proposed for South Surrey that includes significant arts amenities – among them a 350-seat theatre and a contemporary arts café/gallery.
The development, planned for 152 Street at 19 Avenue by co-developers the Surrey City Development Corporation and the Reifel Cooke Group, has met some opposition based on height – the equivalent of 27 storeys in most recently published plans.
CEO Anita Huberman said in a SBOT news release that “artists and cultural spaces are powerful agents of change in the community.
“(They) make Surrey a destination not only for local residents but also for the region and the province.”
Huberman said the proposed development would “help create a cultural hub in South Surrey.”
SBOT’s comprehensive strategic plan, she added, encompasses creating an action plan on how to accelerate the “creative economy” in Surrey – identifying creative industries and noting why they are necessary for economic development.
“There’s no time like the present to begin talking about strategic investments and initiatives in Surrey that will strengthen our creative industries such as theatre, film, digital animation, the development of galleries both public and private, the inclusion of public art in civic and private developments, and more.”
Spring months bring balance to Greater Vancouver housing market Tuesday, June 4, 2013
While the number of home sales in Greater Vancouver continued to trend below the 10-year average in May, the balance of sales and listings meant continued market stability this spring.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in Greater Vancouver reached 2,882 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in May 2013. This represents a one per cent increase compared to the 2,853 sales recorded in May 2012, and a 9.7 per cent increase compared to the 2,627 sales in April 2013.
Last month’s sales were 19.4 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month, while new listings for the month were 7.4 percent below the 10-year average.
“We’ve seen some steadying trends over the last three months,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said. “The number of homes listed for sale has been keeping pace with the number of property sales, leading to a balanced sales-to-listings ratio. This is having a stabilizing influence on home price activity.”
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 5,656 in May. This represents an 18.3 per cent decline compared to the 6,927 new listings reported in May 2012 and a 3.7 per cent decline from the 5,876 new listings in April of this year.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver is 17,222, a 3.4 per cent decrease compared to May 2012 and a 2.9 per cent increase compared to April 2013.
The sales-to-active-listings ratio currently sits at 17 per cent in Greater Vancouver. This is the third straight month that this ratio has been above 15 per cent. Previous to this, May 2012 was the last time this ratio was above 15 per cent.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver is currently $598,400. This represents a decline of 4.3 per cent compared to this time last year and an increase of 1.8 per cent compared to January 2013.
Sales of detached properties reached 1,212 in May 2013, an increase of 2.7 per cent from the 1,180 detached sales recorded in May 2012, and a 22.8 per cent decrease from the 1,570 units sold in May 2011. The benchmark price for detached properties decreased 5.2 per cent from May 2012 to $917,200.
Sales of apartment properties reached 1,136 in May 2013, a decline of 1.7 per cent compared to the 1,156 sales in May 2012, and a decrease of 7.5 per cent compared to the 1,228 sales in May 2011. The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 3.7 per cent from May 2012 to $365,600.
Attached property sales in May 2013 totalled 534, an increase of 3.3 per cent compared to the 517 sales in May 2012, and a 7.8 per cent decrease from the 579 attached properties sold in May 2011. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 3.2 per cent between May 2012 and 2013 to $454,900.
Prices continue to hold their own in transitioning housing market
The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) processed 1,379 sales in May, a decrease of 15 per cent compared to the 1,616 sales in May of last year and 1 per cent more than were processed in April. By historical comparison, sales in May were the slowest for that month since 2001. Looking at inventory, the Board received 3,172 new listings in May – 4 per cent fewer than received during the same month last year – raising the volume of active properties to 10,651 the highest it’s been this year and 2 per cent lower than those available in May 2012.
Ron Todson, President of the Board, says, “We’re in a transitioning market. We’ve seen a significant improvement in activity compared to last fall, but by historical standards we’re lagging. Sales are about 20 per cent lower than normal for this time of year, while the number of new listings coming on stream is right on average.”
An industry standard for measuring the health of the real estate market is comparing the ratio of number of sales to the number of active listings. The British Columbia Real Estate Association describes the Lower Mainland market as balanced when that ratio is between 15 and 20 per cent. In the Fraser Valley, that ratio has favoured buyers hovering between 10 and 15 per cent for most of the last three years. Todson adds, “In order for there to be significant downward pressure on home prices, you need to have a sustained period of time when the ratio of sales-to-actives is in the single digits and because that hasn’t happened, prices are remaining relatively stable.” In May, the benchmark price of single family detached homes in the Fraser Valley was $549,200, an increase of 0.2 per cent compared to $548,000 during the same month last year. For townhouses, the benchmark price was $298,000, a decrease of 2.9 per cent compared to $306,800 in May 2012 and the benchmark price of apartments was $203,400, virtually unchanged from $203,600 in May 2012. “Real estate is specific to community and property type and conditions can change rapidly,” says Todson. “For example, the townhome market in Langley currently is brisk; the condo market in White Rock is not. The range in Fraser Valley alone is considerable, which is why it helps to have a local REALTOR® guide you and look out for your best interests.”
The British Columbia Real Estate Association’s Chief Economist, Cameron Miur outlines the current market situation in BC as well as updates us on the forecast for our Real Estate market in the coming months.
Home sales increased in April, with the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board reporting 1,366 sales processed through its Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), an increase of 21.1 per cent compared to March’s 1,128 sales, but still lagging behind April 2012’s 1,435 sales.
“Historically, sales and listings activity noticeably increases during the spring months and April was no exception,” explains Ron Todson, President of the Board. “What’s different this year is that a number of external factors, such as tighter credit rules and the government’s spotlight on consumer debt have made some consumers more cautious about buying or selling a property. However, for those who need to move to a bigger or smaller home or to another community before summer hits, its business as usual because when you need a home, you need a home.” The Board received 2,951 new listings in April, 5.8 per cent fewer compared to last year’s 3,134 new listings in April but up 7.8 per cent from March. Total active inventory at month-end was 9,995 listings, up from March but still down from 2012. The result has been that the balance between sales, new listings and total active inventory shifted slightly in favour of a balanced market, with April’s sales-to-active-listings ratio increasing to 14 per cent compared to March.
Todson says a balanced market helps to keep prices in check. “Depending on the market area and property type, prices are either slightly up or down based on desirability and availability of product, underscoring the importance of understanding what’s going on in your specific area, which is exactly where REALTORS® can help.”
Find your perfect home while you’re in the neighbourhood.
In April, the benchmark price of single family detached homes in the Fraser Valley was $547,300, an increase of 0.4 per cent compared to $545,000 during the same month last year. For townhouses, the benchmark price was $299,100, a decrease of 2.2 per cent compared to $305,900 in April 2012 and the benchmark price of apartments was $203,900, virtually unchanged from $203,800 in April 2012. “Pricing is incredibly important in slower than average markets,” explains Todson, a real estate veteran with 30 plus years in the business. “We’re not seeing the rapid increases in home values of the last decade, which means that sellers may need to sharpen their pricing in order to be competitive, but buyers won’t see dramatic price drops. A balanced, steady market can be a very good market for consumers to be in.”
Plant tomato seedlings in spring for one of the best tastes of summer, fresh from your backyard
There’s no contest: Home-grown tomatoes, freshly picked, taste best. Given that, including them in a summer vegetable garden is a no-brainer. The next question is, which one to grow? There are tomatoes for every region, from Alaska with its short summers to the cool Pacific Northwest to the hot and humid South. But there are other considerations besides climate. Do you want giant beefsteak tomatoes, salad tomatoes, tiny cherry tomatoes or paste or sauce tomatoes? Are you committed to “traditional” dark red fruits, or are you intrigued by tomatoes that are rosy pink, yellow, orange, green, striped or so dark a purple they look black? Do you want to return to your roots with heirloom varieties, plant one of the newer hybrids or mix and match? Finally, do you want a single harvest or one that lasts from summer until frost kills the plants? You can even decide if you want a neat and tidy, though less prolific, producer, called a determinate variety, or one of the more sprawling, larger indeterminate (vining) types. Determinate varieties generally reach only about 3 feet, need minimal support and produce a crop all at once. Indeterminate varieties can spread to 16 feet and do best with support; they produce a crop over a long season. Semi-determinate varieties have characteristics of both types.
When to plant: Set out starts or nursery plants when the soil is warm and there's no danger of frost. To grow from seed, start seeds indoors five to eight weeks before your planned planting date. Days to maturity: 50 to 90 days once the plants have been set out Light requirement: Full sun Water requirement:Regular and deep watering, but let dry out between waterings Favorites: Amish Paste, beefsteak, Better Boy, Big Beef, Big Boy, Black Krim, Brandywine, Caspian Pink, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Dona, Early Girl, Fourth of July, Green Zebra, Homestead 24, Isis Candy, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Mortgage Lifter, Oregon Spring, Ozark Pink, Paul Robeson, Roma, San Marzano, Siberia, Siletz, Stupice, Sub Arctic Max 1, Sun Gold, Supersweet 100, Sweet 100, Viva Italia.
Planting: Wait until frost is past and the soil has warmed up before planting tomatoes outdoors. Choose a site with rich, well-drained, neutral or slightly acidic soil; amend your soil if it is either alkaline or very acidic. If fusarium or verticillium wilt is a problem in your area, don’t plant where you have planted tomatoes in the past two years. Look for a site in full sun for at least six and preferably eight hours per day. Cherry tomatoes can take less sun, but the sunnier the spot, the better the results. If you don’t want to start from seed, you can generally find a good selection of transplants at nurseries, including unusual and heirloom varieties. Look for plants that are short and sturdy rather than tall and lanky and that have not yet set blossoms or fruit.
Disease notes: Tomatoes are highly susceptible to a number of diseases. Seeds that are resistant to the most prevalent and destructive of these diseases are labeled as follows: A (alternaria leaf spot), F (fusarium wilt), FF (Race 1 and Race 2 fusarium wilt), L (septonia leafspot), N (nematodes), T (tobacco mosaic virus) and V (verticillium wilt). Check to see if these diseases are a problem in your area and choose seeds accordingly.
Remove the bottom two sets of leaves from each transplant, whether nursery bought or started from seed. Dig a hole deep enough to cover the stem up to the bottom of the remaining leaves and add amendments. Set in the plants; add soil and firm the plant in place. Leave 1 1/2 to 3 feet between plants if they will be staked or in cages; 3 to 4 feet if you want to let them grow unfettered. If you're growing in containers, look for ones that are at least 20 gallons; a half barrel is a good choice. Cherry tomatoes can be grown in somewhat smaller containers, but choose as large a size as possible. Some people swear by upside-down containers; others find they aren’t as productive. Whatever you choose, make sure there is good drainage. Fill the container with well-amended potting soil and plant as described above.
Once you've planted the tomatoes, whether in the ground or a container, water them thoroughly. If you live in an area especially prone to cutworms, place collars around the seedlings at this time. This is also the best time to add any stakes. They can be traditional tomato cages, stakes or any sturdy support, including a woven support of branches. Nonmetal stakes or cages won’t burn the plant if they get hot. Determinate types need little to no staking. Other types can be left to sprawl, but getting them off the ground helps prevent foliage and soil-borne diseases and keeps the fruit from rotting or attracting pests.
Growing-season care:Water regularly, directing the water to the base of the plant rather than using overhead sprinklers, and let the soil dry out between waterings. You may need to water only every week to 10 days, depending on your climate. Try to avoid seesawing on water applications — too much one time, then excessive drying out — as this can cause fruit split and other problems. Cut back on watering as the fruit sets. Tomatoes don’t need too much food. If you have rich soil, you’re probably fine. If your soil is less rich, just lightly add a low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks from the start of blossoms until you finish picking. You can also apply controlled-release fertilizer or use a diluted foliage fertilizer. Many experts recommend worm tea. As plants grow, use soft ties to attach the stems to the support. If you’re using a cage, keep the branches inside. Some people suggest pinching off the suckers that brow between the central stem and the branches. It's not necessary; doing so will result in larger fruit but an overall smaller harvest.
Note: Lightly brushing the flowers with your fingertips or a paintbrush can aid in pollination.
Managing pests: The pests that bother other vegetables will not leave tomatoes alone either. Aphids, Colorado potato beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, leaf miners, melon flies (in tropical areas), nematodes and whiteflies can all cause problems. Tomato hornworms are other common pests. Practice good gardening techniques and look for organic solutions for the common problems, including picking off the hornworms and destroying them. Gophers and other small creatures — like raccoons, birds, rodents and, in my case, a cocker spaniel who considers just-ripe tomatoes the perfect snack — can also wreak havoc on your crop. Gopher cages can be effective, and good fencing can separate dogs and other hungry animals from the fruit.
Diseases can be even more of a problem. A laundry list includes late blight, leaf roll, blossom-end rot, wilts and tobacco mosaic virus. Proper garden care, especially when watering, can help prevent problems, but if the disease is severe, you will need to destroy the plants, keeping any diseased plants out of your compost.
Harvest: Pick the fruit when it's firm and fully ripe (which can be a challenge to determine with tomatoes that are still green when ripe). Store it where temperatures remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) — in other words, not in the refrigerator. If frost threatens, pick unripe tomatoes and allow them to fully ripen indoors or use immediately in specialty dishes. You can also pull the entire plant and hang it upside down in a sheltered spot until most of the fruit ripens.
Do you grow tomatoes? Please share your favourite varietals and experiences.