Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The right fit: Ottawa Condo rules and your lifestyle

If you’re like most of my condo-buying clients, your home search is centred around location, suite layout and building amenities. These are the physical aspects of your home, and they’re incredibly important. But there are also intangible aspects, such as rules and regulations, which may affect the way you actually live in your condo.

The vast majority of these rules are reasonable; however, they do vary from condo to condo. They can be found in the Condo Declaration, and it’s well worth your while to read them as part of your home-hunting research. (While rules can be added or eliminated by the condo board, owners are given a vote on important issues, and can demand meetings to review other changes.)

Depending on your lifestyle, you may be passionate or indifferent about any of the following issues, each of which is often regulated by condo rules:

Smoking. Smoke-free condominiums are a relatively new development, but they have indeed made their Ottawa debut. These condos ban smoking even in the privacy of your own suite, so that the highest air quality is maintained.

Rentals. Some Ottawa condominiums have restrictions on short-term rentals (that is, leases of less than a year). One condo complex recently made the news for disallowing renters who don’t constitute a family. While sometimes controversial, such rules are meant to ensure that all residents have a vested interest in maintaining a well-kept building with a pleasant atmosphere.

Pets. Some condos ban all types of pets, while others embrace them. Some place restrictions only on certain types of animals.

Barbeques. While Ottawa has no bylaws pertaining to natural gas-line barbeques on balconies, some condos do restrict them due to safety concerns.

Parking. Condos may restrict parking for commercial and/or oversized vehicles.

Plug-ins for electric cars. This issue caught my eye back in January, when an Ottawa condo made headlines for deciding that a resident with an electric car should pay for his own electricity, and for installation of a meter. At the other end of the spectrum, some “green” condos provide plug-in stations for this very purpose.

While rules and regulations may not be the stuff your condo dreams are made of, I’m happy to report that there are Ottawa condo rules to suit every demographic. Find the set that work for you, and – I promise – you’ll love your home that much more.

Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach.

Friday, August 15, 2014

After the family home: Great spaces for aging gracefully in Ottawa

You may be familiar with the term “aging in place”, which refers to the appealing idea of staying in one’s own home as one gets older, as opposed to entering a retirement home. While our futures don’t always unfold the way we'd planned, I do encourage my downsizing clients to consider homes that are the most likely to gracefully accommodate them in their elder years.

For instance, a flight of stairs may not present a problem to an able-bodied couple in their sixties. A decade later, they may be wishing they’d chosen differently. High-rise and low-rise condominiums with elevator service are by far the most popular housing choice among my clients who move to the city after retirement. Freedom from upkeep is a huge selling feature, while safety and recreational amenities also play key roles.

But there are certainly other options out there. Many of my baby boomer clients love to garden, play outside with grandchildren and entertain friends outdoors. They’re simply not prepared to sacrifice a private lot. Some communities offer condo ownership of semi- or fully detached bungalows, taking the burden of yard maintenance and snow removal from your shoulders. Alternately, freehold owners may hire yard help when it’s needed.

In addition to their lack of stairs and bright main floor laundry rooms, today’s bungalows can easily be built with features that make them more accessible to people with mobility issues. Most builders are happy to widen doors and hallways, substitute lever door handles and add sleek-looking handrails in bathtubs and showers.

You’ll also want to weigh the benefits of living in an adult lifestyle community versus a more diverse Ottawa neighbourhood. Some baby boomers thrive in a community of peers who share similar interests, finding their social lives completely reinvigorated. Others prefer to be surrounded by families of all ages, in neighbourhoods where Halloween brings dozens of miniature princesses and superheroes to the door.

For a small percentage of downsizers, an in-law suite is the answer. When grown children have a larger home, and are able to provide parents with the type of surroundings – and relationships – they desire, both parties can benefit financially and emotionally.

Whatever path you choose, take it from me: once you have a plan for the future, it’s easier to live in the moment.

Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Room of His Own: The Man Cave

More and more often, I’m meeting male clients who toss the term “man cave” around when listing the features they’re looking for in a home. For some, the man cave is meant to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of family life – a place to crack open a beer and watch the game in peace. Others are more interested in a place to entertain their buddies, where Superbowl parties and poker games reign supreme

For reasons of space and noise containment, man caves tend to be located in the basement. New homes are ideal for this purpose, as today’s basements offer great head clearance; as well, there’s no better way to customize a space than from the ground up.

There are all sorts of gimmicky man caves featured in magazines, with décor chosen along a specific theme: golf, for instance, or vintage cars. That’s great, if it makes you happy. But I’d like to address a few of the features that will give your space real staying power:

  • If watching sports and movies is important to you, talk to your builder about installing an in-wall audio system and wiring the room for your wall-mounted television or projector.

  • Lighting should be plentiful. While an overhead light can be useful, you’ll likely get more use from pot lights on a dimmer switch, combined with floor and table lamps. Consider appropriate fixtures above a pool table or bar.

  • Wall colours are traditionally deep and warm; this is a place to be cozy and relaxed, not hyper-alert. Carpet underfoot should be plush, with a great underpad.

  • Consider how you’ll entertain. If asked, most builders will install a bar, or an in-wall fridge for beer or wine. The more work you can hand over to your builder, the sooner you can tilt back that recliner and soak up the manly vibe.

After watching countless couples negotiate their “must-have” list, I’ve come to believe that women have something to gain from the man cave. I’ve found that many women are happy to hand over this chunk of their home’s square footage because, having gotten what they want, the men are content to let their partners take charge of design decisions in the rest of the home. When a trade-off like this can actually ease marital tensions, everybody wins!

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Where will you spend your golden years? - Marnie Bennett

When I was starting out in real estate, it was pretty common – almost expected – for retirees to sell the family house and move to a picturesque little town for some peace and quiet. Maybe they would winterize their cottage and move in year-round, or maybe they’d join the ranks of snowbirds who headed south each winter. But the prevailing idea was that, after decades of working hard and raising a family, retirees were ready to get away from it all.
It never fails to amaze me how quickly times change. In recent years, the trend has begun to swing the other way. More and more often, I’m seeing retired clients who are ready to sell their suburban or rural homes and purchase something right at the heart of the city.

What’s the appeal of an urban retirement? Well, there are the usual suspects: arts and entertainment, restaurants and shopping, social groups and recreation, all right at your doorstep. For baby boomers who have spent huge portions of their lives driving to and from work, ditching the car and hopping on public transit feels like freedom.

Yet another big draw for some retirees is that the city brings them closer to children and grandchildren. For those who are widowed or divorced, the city often offers greater possibilities for making connections with others. The simple truth is that where some people find comfort in quiet surroundings, others find isolation.

Finally, some are attracted downtown for the most practical of reasons: you can’t beat the big city for health care. Even if they’re fit as fiddles, today’s retirees are taking the long view.

I don’t want to overstate it: many boomers still embrace the classic ideal of the fishing boat, a heap of novels and gorgeous lakeside sunsets. But many others are suited to cottage life for just a few weeks a year. These clients tell me that they finally have the time and energy to pursue all the interests that have been on the backburner for so many years –  whether it’s seeking out live jazz, exploring world cuisine or joining a racquetball club. And no place offers them more than the vibrant, ever-changing city.

I suggest you examine your own retirement dreams – and have fun doing it!
Marnie Bennett, Broker
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Marnie Bennett - Moving on When the Marriage Ends

I’d love it if every one of my columns could be about the rosy side of home ownership. But the reality is that a fair number of my clients will, at one point or another, face the unhappy prospect of divorce. In my role as an Ottawa realtor, there are several ways I can help them get through this painful time.

While a lawyer is the go-to expert on legal matters, I like to make sure that my clients have taken stock of their financial resources and weighed every option before deciding whether to sell or to stay. Unless you’ve got a pre-nuptial agreement, the value of your home will be equally split between you and your partner. While one partner sometimes refinances the existing mortgage, most of my divorcing clients agree to sell the matrimonial home and find individual residences.

It can be tempting to install that For Sale sign right away, but taking the time to find a realtor who is responsive to your needs will ultimately lessen your stress level. The right realtor will provide valuable insights on choosing a next home, given your change in circumstances. When the breakup is particularly angry or awkward, your realtor should feel comfortable mediating between you and your ex-partner during the selling process. And finally, a great realtor will guide you to a skilled professional stager.

Staging your home for sale is always important, but never more so than when you’re selling because of divorce. It’s a fact that buyers will pick up on subtle signs of a house divided; either they’ll be turned off altogether, or they’ll treat it as an invitation for rock-bottom bids.

With that in mind, do your best to reveal nothing about your estrangement. There’s no need to hang a giant wedding photo above the bed – but do maintain the bedroom as though it’s a shared space. If possible, clothing from both partners should hang in the closets; if one partner is using a spare bedroom, it should appear to be a welcoming space for guests. Naturally, legal papers should always be kept in a safe, secure place.

As your surroundings become more neutral, and your emotionally-loaded personal items are boxed up, you’ll find it easier to begin planning for the next stage of your life. Have faith: your home, sweet home is out there.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Marnie Bennett Presents at the Ottawa Home and Design Show

Looking for all the latest trends in interior decoration?

Join our very own Marnie Bennett and Kristi Blok this weekend at the Ottawa Home and Design Show and learn "The Top 7 Must Knows of Condo Buying PLUS the The New Normal for Condo Decorating"
Marnie and Kristi will be presenting from the
Design and Décor Stage at the following times:
Friday at 1:00 pm
Saturday at 4:45 pm
Sunday at 4:00 pm

Attend one of our presentations and you'll receive "The Ultimate Ottawa Condo Guide" and be entered to WIN a 2hr consultation with Kiki Interiors.

We look forward to seeing you there!
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Downsizing and the Empty-Nest

After your children have moved out, either to start their adult lives or to attend college, your once-busy-and-full home can seem strangely quiet and empty. Many older adults who find themselves in this situation decide to downsize and move into a smaller Ottawa home. Downsizing can be financially beneficial, but it can also be a long and involved process if you aren't careful.

The Two Sides of Downsizing

Downsizing involves selling your current Ottawa home and purchasing (or renting) a new and smaller one. If you plan it correctly, you can save a considerable amount of money when you sell your Ottawa home and purchase a new one. But, keep in mind that home prices have risen since you first purchased decades ago. You might be surprised at the asking price for even a small home in your area.

You might have some emotional attachments to your current home that might get in the way of you effectively selling it. Typically, there's the urge to price your home high, since the home has so many memories for you. But, remember that your emotions are not the same as the emotions of the buyer.  So, you need an objective person to help you sort out these emotion-laden thought and ideas.  This is where a real estate agent can help you determine the price for your home based on a comparative study of the prices of similar homes in your area.

Weigh the cost of purchasing a new home carefully. Depending on how old you are and your financial goals, you might want to purchase your empty-nest home outright, instead of getting another mortgage. Paying cash for your new home means you may actually pay less in the long run as well as you will incur no interest charges. Obtaining a mortgage can also be financially beneficial if you utilize this money to buy other investment properties or other holdings.

Another way to downsize and save money is to move in with your grown children.

Making Room

When you move to a smaller Ottawa home, you can't take all the possessions in your current space with you. Although this fact is undeniably true and a physical reality, some downsizers are depressed by this fact.  Others, however, are elated.  Regardless, downsizing means trimming the items you own, not just reducing the size of your house. Your children can help you purge items from your current home.

To encourage them to clear out their childhood bedrooms, hold a family clean out day. Each grown child can focus on cleaning out his or her old room, deciding what to do with their old belongings themselves. If your kids aren't interested in cleaning out their stuff themselves, you can take it upon yourself to discard it or to donate useful items to any of a number of worthwhile local charities.  Some may actually give you a tax deductible receipt for these donations.

Some of your possessions may in fact be of interest to a museum or library and again a tax deduction receipt may be obtainable for those donations.

Deciding what to do with the rest of your possessions can be difficult. To make the process easier, you might want to start with the bigger pieces. For example, if your new home doesn't have a separate, formal dining room, you can probably safely donate your old dining set. If the new home only has a small living room, you can easily decide to donate your large sectional.

Things can become more complicated as the items become smaller. You might have a accumulated a large collection of knickknacks over the years. The best way to sort through these items is to do it quickly. Only handle an item one time before making a decision about it. If you keep returning to an item because you aren't sure if you want to keep it, it will take you a long time to purge your home.

Other means of purging yourself of your extraneous possessions is to hold a garage sale or a neighbourhood give-away day, or to advertise your items in a local newspaper or on Kijjiji (or another on-line site) or you can hire the services of an antique dealer or an estate auctioneer. Finally, some items may be usable by a local church charity or by building material re-cyclers or an organization such as Habitats for Humanity.

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