The Surprising Truth About Millennial Home Buyers

Millennial home buyers
Believe it or not, millennial home buyers take after their grandparents.

Who’s buying homes these days? According to a study by Zillow Group, it’s mostly millennials.

Stats on Millennial Home Buyers

In 2016, 42% of home buyers in the United States were part of Generation Y, also known as the millennial generation. Most of them were newcomers to the housing market. The median age of a first-time home buyer is now 33 years old.

What may surprise you is the choices these buyers are making when it comes to buying a home. There is much ado in the media about millennial spending habits, and not a week goes by without a clickbait-y news story about some wild millennial fad (most recently, it was avocado toast). Unfortunately, this has created a widespread a perception that people aged 18 to 34 are bad with money.

Are Millennial Home Buyers Irresponsible?

So is this generation as careless when it comes to buying a house? Not so, according to Zillow. Truth is, millennial home buyers take after their grandparents.

Zillow studied millennial home buying trends and found that this generation shares many preferences with their grandparents’ generation. Their choices set them apart from their parents’ generation (the baby boomers) and the now middle-aged Generation X.

Here are some stereotype-busting truths about millennial home buyers:

  • Contrary to the popular image of millennials as city-dwelling hipsters, almost 50% of millennial homeowners live in the suburbs. Only 33% live in urban areas. 20% live in a rural area.
  • Commitment issues is another trait of the stereotypical millennial. This generation is often seen as one that is willing to lay down roots. But the study showed that 64% of millennial home buyers chose to buy in the same city they already lived in. Of those two didn’t, just 7% left their home state.
  • Critics of the millennial generation like to claim that this cohort craves instant gratification. You would think, then, that this generation is eager to run out and buy the first home they can afford. In truth, millennial home buyers skip the traditional starter home and wait to invest in larger properties with higher prices. The median size of a millennial home is 1,800 square feet, similar in size to what older generations buy.
  • Finally, millennials are often portrayed as being self-centred, preferring to text their friends instead of talking with neighbours in the check-out line. But like their grandparents’ generation, millennials are opting for homes with shared community amenities. They are also more open to choosing townhouses over detached homes than baby boomers or Generation X.

No generation is perfect. We’re not saying that millennials make better or worse choices than their parents did when it comes to buying a home. But it’s interesting to note how their habits differ, and it’s fair to say the current crop of home buyers is far from the fair weather purchasers the media tends to portray.

Get a Glimpse of the Past with These Time Capsule Homes

Some design trends are timeless. Others, not so much.

Like fashion and architecture, interior design trends come and go as people move from place to place. We take our favourite antiques and furniture with us when we move, but we leave much of our old style behind. And when a new family takes up residence, they change things like wall colour, flooring, appliances, and lighting to suit their personal preferences.

Fewer people are choosing to stay in one home for their entire lives. More frequent moves mean more frequent style changes. Because of this, it’s becoming rarer and rarer to see a home that preserves old interior design trends.

That’s why capsule homes are amazing. A capsule home is a house that preserved the original design elements intact for decades, from the fixtures and amenities to the furnishings and décor. The result? Walking through the front door feels like travelling back in time.

Take this untouched 70’s home. On the outside, it’s a lovely suburban house on a big lot. Prime real estate, right? But peel back the curtain and you’ll find a wonderland of bygone design trends. From the lime and lemon-colored kitchen to the candy-coated bathroom, the home showcases the spirit of the 70’s in a way you thought you’d only see on TV.

This example, from Toronto, embodies an earlier era. From the front entrance to the master bedroom, the entire home is perfectly on-point with the pastel-soaked 1960’s. Pink, purple and baby blue dominate top to bottom, except for the basement, which is sheathed in trusty wood panelling.

There’s something remarkable about how perfectly these homes replicate scenes from the past. Set designers can pull off a convincing copy for movies and television, but this is the genuine article.

Would I live in a house with pink and orange walls? No. But I would hate to see homes like be transformed into just another suburban show home. I’m thankful that a select group of buyers are willing to pay more for a house with a vintage look in hope of preserving it for future generations.

6 Ways to Spot a True Victorian Home

victorian style home
Is this a true Victorian-style home?

What comes to mind when you think of Victorian architecture? Like many of you, I picture high-pointed roofs flourished with ornate wooden vergeboarding, colourful wood plank siding, and windows flanked by classic shutters or brickwork. But did you know that the Victorian architecture encompasses a wide range of different styles?

The name, of course, refers to Queen Victoria, who ruled the British Empire from 1837 to 1901. There were a number of different styles that were created during her reign, and many of them now fall under what we consider Victorian architecture.

Victorian house builders were all about the fine details. They embraced the romantic Victorian ideal that aesthetics was as important as function, if not moreso (just think of those impractical Victorian hoop dresses). Each home has something that sets it apart and makes it unique. The blend of different styles and eras in Victorian architecture have a way of mixing together into a unified design.

This collage of styles can also make it difficult to identify a true Victorian-style home. Many people point to any old, brick building with a pointy roof and bay windows and call it Victorian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — but if you’re on the hunt for a real Victorian home, here are some things to look out for:

  1. At least two stories. You won’t see many Victorian bungalows. This style was all about excess, and most of these houses are quite grand, both in a literal and figurative sense.
  2. Wood or stone exterior. Most Victorian homes have ornate brickwork or a vertical wood siding. If one wants to renovate this type of home and preserve its true essence, they should stick with these traditional materials.
  3. Decorative roof trim. Vergeboarding, also known as gingerbread, exploded in popularity in the Victorian era. Few contemporary homes sport these stylish flourishes.
  4. Steep, multi-faceted roof. High peaks and gables are a common mark of this building style. Some even include round or octagonal towers! The exception is the Second Empire variation of this building style, which embraces flat-topped roofs for maximum space inside the house.
  5. One-story porch. First impressions were important in Victorian architecture, and many houses have a grand front entrance that includes a wraparound porch.
  6. Built before 1901. Though some builders kept this style alive well after the end of Victoria’s reign, a true Victorian home is one that was crafted during her time. These homes are becoming rarer and rarer each year, but fellow enthusiasts are helping to keep the style alive.

Few among us wouldn’t love to live in a Victorian-style home. They have a timeless beauty that evokes a sense of comfort and warmth, whether they are in a small town or a world-class city like Toronto. Happy house hunting!

The 3 Biggest Pros and Cons of Renting Out Your Basement

renting out your basement
There’s more than privacy to consider when it comes to renting out your basement.

Last week, Brittney Morgan wrote a great piece for Apartment Therapy on the benefits and drawbacks of basement apartments from the renter’s perspective. What the article doesn’t address is the pros and cons of renting out a basement from the point of view of the landlord.

Renting out your basement is an enticing option for those of us in the Greater Toronto Area, especially young people who are buying a home for a first time. Collecting rental income is a lucrative way for young homeowners to help pay the oft-excessive mortgage. However, there are definite drawbacks when it comes to renting out a slice of the property you live in.

If you’re thinking of becoming a live-in landlord yourself, consider this rundown of the 3 biggest pros and cons of renting out your basement apartment.

Benefits of Renting Out Your Basement

  • Steady source of income. If you price it right and account for the extra utility costs a renter will bring, you can leverage the rental income to help pay your mortgage, property taxes, or other bills. This can help you pay off your mortgage years earlier.
  • Adds value to your home. Having a finished basement apartment increases the resale value of your home, as it will appeal to future homeowners who are thinking along the same lines as you. It expands the appeal of your home to a wider demographic of potential buyers.
  • Free house-sitter. When you go away on vacation, you can feel better knowing there will be someone there to keep an eye on things. If you build a good relationship with your tenant, they may even be willing to help out by feeding your pets or watering your plants while you’re gone.

Renting Out Your Basement: Challenges and Drawbacks

  • Higher utility bills. Having a tenant in your home means your water and energy consumption will go up. This can eat up any cost savings you’d earn from your rental income if you aren’t careful. If you want to track the tenant’s usage and charge them monthly utilities on top of the rent, you will have to pay to have a second meter installed.
  • Legal issues. Being a landlord means you have to follow the residential tenancies laws in your province or else face hefty fines and legal claims. You will have to stay on top of repairs, obey the law in terms of how you collect rent, etc. Renting out your business apartment can involve other legal issues as well, such as civil claims, municipal bylaws, and human rights laws.
  • Costly repairs. You will be responsible for maintenance and repairs in your basement apartment, which can quickly add up if you don’t stay on top of things. Think of how much money you spend on home renovations and repairs — can you afford to pay double that amount? As with utility bills, repairs are a potential pitfall that can evaporate your rental income.

Don’t be discouraged! Renting your home can be a great idea — if you do it right. Just be sure to crunch the numbers and consider whether you are ready for the responsibilities that come with being a landlord.

What is a Net-Zero Home?

We’d all like to live a little greener. And why not? Not only is an energy-efficient home better for the environment, it’ll cuts your utility costs as well.

Most of us have bought into a few energy-saving measures here and there: a new water heater, an energy-efficient appliance, or some LED light bulbs. But we aren’t all ready to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle wholeheartedly.

After all, smart technology is expensive. Composting is a mess. And no one likes cold showers.

What if living green was easy? That’s the future promised by net-zero homes. The popularity of these homes is set to grow in the coming years, and they could be coming to a neighbourhood near you.

What is a Net-Zero Home?

A net-zero home is one that produces at least as much energy as it consumes each year. The home does this by producing clean energy via solar panels and other means, and by reducing its energy consumption as much as possible.

In the end, the home offsets it energy costs to the point that its energy consumption is nil — hence the term net-zero.

If you’ve never seen a net-zero home before, you might be picturing a tiny house in the woods or a Hobbit-like hippy hovel. Don’t get the wrong idea. Net-zero living doesn’t necessarily mean off-the-grid, or even living off-the-suburb. Many net-zero homes appear identical to typical homes inside and out. The difference is in the details.

Net-zero homes are built from the ground up with energy efficiency in mind. To start, the builder orients the home so that the triple-pane windows take full advantage of the sun’s light and heat. The house incorporates roof overhangs, good ventilation, and natural vegetation to prevent overheating and reduce the need for air conditioning. The walls are as airtight and packed with insulation to keep cool air in during the summer and out in the winter. The roofs are adorned with solar panels that soak up the sun’s rays.

Inside a net-zero home, you’ll find high efficiency appliances and LED lighting fixtures. The surrounding walls, with their tight construction and heavy insulation, make for a comfortable and quiet environment indoors. Net-zero homes also have great natural lighting.

Why Net-Zero Could Be the Future

Sure, you might be thinking, consuming less energy helps Mother Earth. But what’s in it for me?

Well, just take a look at your energy bill. The appeal of a net-zero home goes beyond green living and environmental protection. The year-to-year energy bill savings significantly offset the upfront costs of choosing a net-zero home over a traditional one.

More home builders are catching onto the net-zero trend. In 2013, Natural Resources Canada funded a project to build 26 net-zero homes across Canada. The project showed that these comes can be built cost-effectively in today’s construction environment.

Additionally, Ontario’s new climate plan, set to launch in 2019, will require an energy audit for any new or existing single-family home that goes on the market. The results of the audit will be included in all real-estate listings. This will give net-zero homes an advantage in the housing market.

3 Tough Questions for First Time Home Buyers

Just about every Canadian shares the dream of owning a home. And with interest rates low and house prices climbing ever higher in the GTA, many people feel pressured to jump into the housing market before it dries up.

first time home buyer
First time home buyers: don’t jump in until you’ve answered these questions.

Right now, real estate is undoubtedly a seller’s game. Between the dwindling home supply, soaring prices, bidding wars, and legislative changes, it’s tougher than ever for Canadian first time home buyers to enter this crowded market.

Many first time buyers in Canada are so busy wondering how they can buy in that they forget to ask themselves an even more important question: should I enter the market in the first place?

Before they phone the local realtor or hop on MLS, first time home buyers must ask themselves these three critical questions.

Can I Really Afford it?

This is the heart of the matter. Long-time renters relish the thought of putting their monthly cheques towards equity rather than the black hole of rent payments. But it’s never that simple.

Buying a home is not just a big down payment and a monthly mortgage. First time buyers are often shocked at the extra ‘hidden’ costs of home ownership. This includes closing costs (legal fees, sales tax, land transfer tax, etc.), property tax, monthly utility bills, home maintenance…

In short, it adds up quickly.

Don’t just speculate on these costs. Compare them to your current expenses as a renter and ask yourself: can I really afford to make the leap right now?

Can I Make the Down Payment?

What’s the lowest bar you need to pass to enter the market? Under Canadian law, home buyers must put down at least 5% of the purchase price on a down payment for a home valued at $500,000 or less. For homes above $500,000, the minimum is 5% for the first $500,000 and 10% for the remainder.

If you can’t make that payment, you can’t afford the house. You may have to adjust your spending, make a long-term savings plan, or borrow from your relatives. Regardless, it’s will take time.

Consider this an opportunity to think and re-think your decision to buy a home.

Does Buying a Home Make Sense for Me?

Your parents own a home. Some of your friends are settling down as well. Why shouldn’t you do the same?

Because for most people, a home is the single largest and most important purchase they will ever make. You have to make sure the time is right.

It’s not just a purchase. It’s a life event. Buying a home will impact the decisions you make in terms of family and career as well.

Do you plan on sticking with your current job? Could opportunities home up in a different city, or even a different province or country? Is there a chance you could get married in the next few years? Where does your partner want to live?

Moving is expensive, and there’s no way of knowing for sure what the housing market will look like down the line. Sellers are celebrating now, but that might not be the case in five, or two, or even a year from now. Make sure you’re ready to lay down roots before anchoring yourself to a home.

Here’s the Good News

You’ve made big decisions before. You’ve put thought into your education, your family life, and your career. You know how to sit down, take notes, do research and really think.

Do this you will make the right choice.

The housing market ebbs and flows, but it’ll always be there. Just because you don’t buy into the housing market today doesn’t mean you never will. Making a measured decision to delay your home purchase is more likely to pay off than thoughtless push to enter a tumultuous market today.

What Will Happen to the Toronto Cube House?

toronto cube house
Martin Trainor calls the cubes home sweet home. From the Toronto Star

Toronto is home to a score of amazing architectural feats. There’s the striking, contentious Crystal addition which juts out onto the street from the Royal Ontario Museum; the glass palace that is the Globe & Mail Centre; and, of course, the iconic CN Tower.

With so many massive structures, it’s easy to forget this modest entry in modern architecture: the cube house on Sumach St.

Designed by architect Ben Kutner in 1996, the Unitri cubes may be the most unique home in Toronto. And though it’s not as big as the ROM or the G&M, it’s hard to miss it.

The home is sandwiched between two on/off ramps between Adelaide and Eastern Avenue, greeting drivers heading to and from the Don Valley Parkway. Though originally intended as a three-condo unit, it has gradually transformed into a house-billboard hybrid.

Each cube is 42 feet by 42 feet and divided into three separate floors, which adds up to over 9,000 square feet of living space. Though they have few windows, the cubes get enough natural light to grow house plants inside.

Kutner based his idea on Rotterdam’s famous Cubic Houses. The cubes are designed to be the versatile and affordable modular homes of the future. They can be erected in weeks and arranged complex residential or commercial units. They can also fit in areas where there’s no room to build a traditional house. Kutner calls them, “Meccano on steroids.”

Of course, the cubes didn’t catch on like their Dutch inspiration did. Kutner never got around to building more cube homes, and they didn’t exactly lead the way to the future of architecture. But that just makes the Toronto prototype all the more special.

CBC video producer Martin Trainor calls the cube house home for fifteen years. “I choose to live here because it’s unique”, he says. “It’s a great architectural masterpiece, if you ask me.”

Unfortunately, these cute little cubes face an uncertain future. Last fall, the owner of the property placed the entire lot up for sale – cube home and all.

It’s not surprising, given how the value of the land has soared in the past decade. Since the cubes are just over twenty years old, it’s unlikely they could get protection as heritage properties. What happens to the Unitri cubes will be up to whoever buys the property.

Sure, not everyone wants to live in a forest-green cube with billboards plastered to the side. But there’s no shortage of identical suburban townhomes out there for plain, ordinary folk to snap up. There’s only one Unitri cube in all the world!

Building are part of what make the city what it is. Let’s hope the eventual buyer will help keep this spark alive.

Is Hiring a Real Estate Photographer Worth It?

real estate photographer

Our previous post stressed the importance of curb appeal in selling a home. TL;DR: Buyers won’t bother to look inside if the outside doesn’t look right, so make sure your home puts on its best face before it hits the real estate listings.

This brings us to another important point: while curb appeal matters, the first time buyers see your home is not literally from the curb. It’s in an online real estate listing. More specifically, they see a photo of the exterior of your home.

90% of buyers look for homes on the Internet, and 83% of them say photos are the most important and useful feature on a listing.

If the main listing photo see doesn’t appeal, buyers will gladly scroll past it. If the interior shots disappoint, it may not be enough to keep them interested. A person’s decision to take the leap and schedule a viewing often turns on the quality of the photos inside.

That’s why it’s usually worthwhile to hire a real estate photographer.

Why Can’t I Just Take My Own Photos?

Well, you can take your own photos for your real estate listing. Your realtor can, too. After all, everyone has a cell phone. Most cell phones have cameras. And these cameras are getting better and more high-def all the time.

But should you take your own photos? In most cases, you should not.

The thing is, a great camera does not make a great photographer. Photography is an art, and it takes years of study and practice to become skilled in the art of photography. Taking great real estate listing photos is about more than setting up a tripod and taking the shots. It involves an understanding of lighting, placement, and angles.

Inadequate lighting makes your space look dreary or washed out. Bad angles can emphasize the home’s rough edges while neglecting the good. Poor placement make your space look smaller than it should.

An experience real estate photographer has the knowledge and expertise to capture your home effectively. You want your photos to provide an strong representation of your home. It shouldn’t just convey what your home looks like – it should entice buyers to take a closer look.

A professionally-shot home has a better chance to stand out among the other listings, attract higher offers, and close faster.

What if I Don’t Have a Realtor?

When it comes to selling their house, more and more people are taking the matters into their own hands.

Today, anyone can create a real estate listing with ease. There are plenty of resources out there to help ordinary people navigate the home selling process. In the spirit of DIY and the pursuit of higher returns, many homeowners decide to sell directly to buyers – no realtor involved.

The quality of your photos is even more important when you’re going it alone. Lacking the network and marketing machine that comes with a realtor, you’ll want to take every advantage you can get to sell your home. Hiring a professional real estate photographer can help.

Since professional photos can increase the value of a home, investing in good photos can pay off in the long run.

5 Quickest Ways to Boost Curb Appeal on a Budget

curb appeal

Planning to sell your home this summer? Here’s how you can do to boost curb appeal on a budget.

Curb Appeal Matters.

The hottest real estate listings don’t happen by accident. They often involve picture-perfect staging, top-notch photography, and a stunning virtual home tour.

But before you get that far, take a step back and focus on first impressions. What’s the first thing people see when they visit your listing?

Answer: the front of your home.

People judge a home by it’s cover, whether you like it or not. That’s why curb appeal matters. Just about any potential buyer will scope out your front yard before they even think of stepping through the front door.

Installing new windows, re-shingling your roof, and changing up your siding are all great ways to boost curb appeal. Unfortunately, those fixes take time – and money. If you want to boost curb appeal on a budget, you have to get creative.

Here are some budget curb appeal tips that can help you catch the attention of browsers and drive-bys.

5. Power Wash

Since we see it every day, we don’t often notice dirt and grime building up on the side of our homes. But trust me – your potential buyers will. Many people go years without scrubbing their siding, which leaves it looking cheap and faded.

That’s why blasting your siding with a power washer can be just as effective as a high-cost replacement. While you’re at it, you can point the nozzle at your walkways and patios to wash away inground moss and dirt.

If you don’t own a power washer, you can easily rent one from a hoem store or garden centre.

4. Plant Flowers

Flowers are one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to win over potential buyers. It doesn’t need to be expensive – a few well-placed gardens and potted plants are effective. Visit your local nursery to find out which plants thrive in your area.

Don’t have a green thumb? No worries! You can make a big impression with premade hanging baskets and urns. All you need to do is trim and water them.

3. Wash Those Windows

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The eyes are the window to the soul?”

Well, it’s through your windows that potential buyers get their first peek at the soul of your home. Make sure they have a squeaky-clean view.

2. Upgrade Front Door

Is it welcoming? Does it look safe and secure? The front door is a factor in the overall feel of your home. But if you can’t afford to replace your it, you can make the best of what you have.

You can spruce up your entrance with a fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and a clean doormat. Choose colours and materials that fit your home’s overall style. It’s a subtle change, but it works.

1. Prepare Front Porch

A cozy front porch can be the final push buyers need to schedule a viewing. And if you’ve already followed the previous tips, it’s already poised to succeed.

Make the most of your front porch by cleaning up the deck (that power washer can come in handy), arranging some comfortable porch furniture, and keeping the porch light on at night.

You Missed a Spot: 10 Kitchen Items Everyone Forgets to Clean

It happens to the best of us.

You have company coming over. It’s go time. And you’re not ready.

Perhaps you caught wind of some last-minute guests. Maybe you made plans weeks ago, but work left you no time to clean during the week. Whatever the reason, your kitchen is a mess, and you need to make it *somewhat* presentable in time.

Of course, that’s when we start to cut corners.

We focus our effort on the big-ticket items – the counter tops, the stove, the stainless steel fridge that holds fingerprints like an old-fashioned fridge holds magnets – and forget the little details.

But that’s alright! You’ll get it next time. Just keep these kitchen cleaning tips in mind when you tidy up and you’ll never miss a problem spot again.

10. Ceilings and Corners

In your kitchen, the walls and ceilings get dirty faster than the rest of your home. All those splashes of oil from the stovetop or bits from the blender can get grimy if you leave them alone.

Take time to clean crease, grime, and spilled food from those nooks and crannies.

9. Wall Art

Just as the walls in your kitchen get dirtier, so do the things that adorn them. Smudged glass and dusty frames take away from the beauty of your carefully-selected pieces. Dust off the tops and sides of your frames, then take them down to give the glass a good clean.

Be sure not to spray water or cleaner directly onto the frame, as liquid can seep behind the glass and damage your precious art. Instead, wipe it with a slightly damp cloth.

8. Drapes, Curtains and Blinds

Of course you remember to Windex your windows, but when was the last time the drapes got some attention? Though they may look clean, curtains and other hanging upholstery can trap everything from pollen to dust mites and bacteria.

The next time you clean your windows, take down the coverings and wash them according to the label. You can save time by vacuuming them regularly.

7. Cutting Boards

Whether you use them a little or a lot, it’s very important to sanitize your cutting boards. Both wood and plastic cutting boards can be a major source of cross-contamination.

It’s best to sanitize them with a chlorine bleach solution after each use, but if you can’t find time for that, use a different cutting board for your meats, fruits and vegetables, and other foods.

6. Sponges

Sponges are a haven for bacteria. Washing them with soap and water isn’t enough.

You can kill most of it by heating a moist sponge in a microwave for one minute, or popping them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle. But you should still replace your kitchen sponge frequently, especially if it starts to smell.

5. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans usually sit idle during the winter months. That’s when they accumulate mountains of dust bunnies on the upper side of the blades. If you don’t clean them often, you’ll end up with a shower of dust the next time you turn on the fan.

You can easily remove the dust with a warm, soapy cloth. Just be sure to use a stable stepladder to reach those high places.

4. Cabinet Handles and Doors

Kitchen cabinets tend to get grabbed by dirty hands, becoming a hot spot for – you guessed it – bacteria.

You can thwart these tiny pests by disinfecting knobs and handles every so often. If the cabinet hides something messy, like a garbage bin or dog food, you should wipe down the inside of the doors as well.

3. Garbage Can

Sure, you take out the trash every week. You know not to leave dirty bits and pieces on the bottom of the can. But your kitchen garbage can will still accumulate grime.

If you garbage can smells bad even when empty, it’s time to give it a thorough clean with a disinfectant and odour cleaner.

2. Dishwasher

Who washes the dishwasher? You do – or at least you’re supposed to. The filter gets clogged with food debris and soap scum, and the sides are marred by hard water deposits. Neglect it for too long and you’ll have mold.

Luckily, cleaning the dishwasher is a fairly simple process.

1. Small Appliances

Perhaps the most neglected corners of our kitchens lay with our humble appliances. We love our toaster, blender, and coffee maker, but rarely do we remember to clean them inside-out.

To keep your food tasting fresh (not funky), be sure to clean your little appliances when you clean the oven and stove top.