Back to School Survival Tips

The “back to school” days are right around the corner.

Adjusting to “back to school” mode is simple if you prepare in advance and set up a regular routine. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the transition a little easier:

Back to Bedtimes – Your little night owls will benefit from having bedtimes rolled back a couple of weeks before school starts.

Get Organized – Designate a central “information station” where schedules are housed and school notes can be processed.

Adjust Chores – Responsibilities may need to be adjusted depending on the type of chore and change in morning routine.

Plan Ahead – Get in the habit of doing as much as you can the night before. The morning routine will be smoother if you lay out clothes and make lunches in advance.

Stay Positive – Returning to school is an emotional adjustment for children so help them stay positive and ensure you’re available as much as possible.

Back to school doesn’t have to be about forgotten lunches, unlabelled belongings and lost permission slips! With a little organization and planning, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the summer knowing that September will be smooth sailing.


Some more good advice from… check them out!


There have been a couple of great articles in the Hamilton Spectator the last few days talking about some great things happening in Hamilton!


To begin with there was the story about a project they are calling Barton Rises. A group of young professionals are trying to convince property owners to allow local entrepreneurs to use the abandoned store fronts rent free. Some people call these “pop-up shops”.This initiative also includes garbage clean up, refreshing store fronts, business workshops etc.


There was also the article about starting a Community Land Trust to acquire vacant properties that are surplus city properties or those in tax arrears. These properties could become community gardens, parkland, or maybe a community center. Community Land Trusts are more common in the U.S. but there are a few successful ones in Canada, such as Vancouver and Toronto.


There was another article about a small hair salon on Barton Street East. The owner was celebrating her 10th anniversary in business. In fact the article went on to say her salon has become a hub for the neighbourhood.


Stories like these along with all the other goings on, such as a new brownfield development on Victoria St.N., the new Go Station, the new condo projects underway, new shops and restaurants on James St. N. and now along Cannon St., you can’t help but think our city is on the move.


Downtown Hamilton is not the same as it was 5 short years ago. There seems to be more activity downtown than ever before. All these new business and restaurants are creating jobs as well as increasing the tax base. This is all positive. I encourage everyone to take the time to explore downtown Hamilton for the first time, you may be pleasantly surprised!!

To Buy or Rent – that is the question!

Our current market has been fueled to some extent by First Time Buyers, and sometimes getting to the point of being ready to buy is the biggest hurdle they face.

For a lot of people, the number one reason they choose to rent versus buy their own home is their fear of signing their name to a long-term mortgage agreement. But let’s face it – very few of us can go through life without paying for our place of residence in one form or another. In that sense, you’ve already made a commitment to a fixed schedule of payments for housing — whether it’s in the form of a mortgage or a rental lease. In actual fact, one of the major advantages of a mortgage agreement is that it usually covers a longer time period than a lease — which can work in your favour. Since no one can guarantee what your rental payments may be two or even five years down the road, your mortgage agreement actually protects you from the increases – compounding annually — which you can often encounter when you rent.

Nevertheless, some people are still intimidated by the total debt that a mortgage agreement represents. Yet if you added up all the rental payments you could expect to pay over an extended period of time, you may find that going the mortgage route is actually the more affordable of the two options. With today’s relatively low mortgage rates, and financing options, the cost of carrying a home may be lower than what you might expect. Your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate professional can show you how owning your own home may be more affordable than you ever imagined.

While making mortgage payments may actually be more affordable than paying rental costs, let’s not lose sight of the biggest financial benefit of buying a home.
The simple fact of the matter is, when you rent, you’re slowly but surely building someone else’s ownership equity in the property. On the other hand, when you buy a home, a portion of your mortgage payment is building personal equity for you. And if sometime in the future, you decide to sell, that equity is something you’ll take with you as you make your next move.

Finally, let’s not forget the creative freedom and pride of ownership that comes with owning your own property. When you buy, you decide the extent of home improvements, and decor changes you want to make. You decide on colour schemes and where you want to build that bookcase. Maybe best of all, you gain the equity that those improvements add to your home. Spending money to improve a rental property just puts value in someone else’s pocket.

If you’re tired of paying off someone else’s home for them, talk to your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate sales professional for a no obligation consultation and find out how to make your dream of home ownership a reality.

What are Home Shoppers Looking For Now?

What do you think are the most popular trends? I recently read an article outlining the currents house hunting wants and was surprised by some of what I read.

Not surprising, buyers are still looking for large great rooms and spa like bathrooms.

The ideal home is now open concept, with the great room encompassing the entertaining area of a living room, the secluded space of a technology work area, likely at least two eating areas, and a large very functional kitchen. People want to be more connected to what is going on in the family.

We are seeing this in renovations that are being completed, and in some areas, in the new home designs that are being put forward. Many of these homes no longer have the halls to each separate area of the house, which traditionally was used for privacy between the different use areas. These hallways added considerably to the square footage of the home, and prevented the free flow that home owners are now looking for.

The sought after design today allows you to be part of the party when you entertain, even when you are doing the prep work. Your breakfast bar area serves as a buffet area, and you likely have a small eating area for casual meals, and a larger space for more formal/large family get togethers. Home owners don’t worry about guests being able to see the prep area. Likely that’s where everyone was gathering anyhow! Kitchens have always been the gathering place at the party.

And bathrooms… apparently we all want the spa bath from the high end hotel. Soaker/jetted tub, separate glass shower with multiple shower heads and a seat, heated floor, modern vanity with double sinks, showpiece mirrors… I don’t know about you, but I feel relaxed just picturing that.

What I did find surprising, is that the average square footage of the home that many buyers are looking for is 1800 to 2400. It would seem that everything mentioned above, plus 3 bedrooms can be accommodated in that space when you lose the halls.

Don’t take this to mean there are not buyers looking for larger homes with the same features, but about a third of buyers are searching for what I described above.

Are you in the buying phase? What are you looking for? Let us know if the housing gurus have it right…

How to plan for an In-Law Suite?

This week I would like to touch on in-law suites. They come in all shapes and sizes so here are a few ideas to make sure you end up with the appropriate situation.

Today’s home buyers are often young parents, trying to find enough hours in the day to meet all their commitments.  Many are responding to this challenge by having live-in help assist with childcare and household chores…and that means you’ll probably need an in-law suite.  In some cases, you may be one of the fortunate homebuyers who find caregiver accommodations ready-made in your new home.  Other homeowners may go with the DIY approach.  Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when planning your space.

An effective in-law suite will be appealing to your caregiver, while at the same time giving you some privacy.  The challenge is to do that without putting too much strain on your pocketbook.  A good benchmark to help you determine what improvements are worth doing is to measure the cost against the expected lifespan of the expense.  For example, putting in a 4-pc bathroom can be costly, and may not be worth doing if you only see it being needed for three or four years until the kids go off to school.  In a case like that, rather than adding a full bath, you might consider a compromise of adding a sink and counter to a bed-sitting room, that could later evolve into a den with a wet bar.

On the other hand, if you can see the caregiver’s space being used long-term as a permanent in-law suite or used as additional living space as your family grows, then you’ll probably feel the cost is well worth it.  Remember too, the number of bathrooms is an important factor when determining the resale value of your home.  If you do it right, you have an excellent chance of re-couping some, if not all, of the expense when the time comes to sell. Your Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate professional will be glad to advise you on how such improvements may impact a home’s future value.

Privacy and space are important issues with an in-law suite.  Your caregiver will probably appreciate a lock on the bedroom door, or at least a cabinet that can be locked.   As to decorating, keep it simple.  Light colours, mirrors and recessed lighting will all help make a small space seem larger.  Keep it bright with extra task lighting, including a reading lamp.  Choose inexpensive window treatments such as mini-blinds that let in lots of light, but still allow for privacy.  Add a large framed corkboard for photos, notes and other mementos which will allow your live-in help to personalize their space without it looking cluttered.  Include a writing area, either a small table or desk with a lamp and chair.

Plan your room layout in advance, and don’t forget to take wiring and other facilities into consideration before you start painting.   For example, you may want to install a cable TV or internet outlet or add a phone jack, or a baseboard heater.  A little planning can help make your space a pleasure for years to come.

Please share your ideas on how your in-law suite has made your life easier.


Last week Ann talked a little about the community of organized real estate. I would like to express how proud we are to be part of this community of REALTORS® that help people realize the dream of home ownership. We are even more proud of how our fellow REALTORS® give back to the communities where they live and work and other communities that may need their help.

Let me give you an idea of some of the ways we REALTORS® support communities across the country.

In 2012 REALTORS® donated more than 30 MILLION DOLLARS nationwide to various local charities and housing initiatives. Just this past summer REALTORS® donated over $200,000 to help the flood victims in the Calgary area.

On the local scene the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington have donated, to date, over $700,000 to the CHML/Y108 Children’s Fund. Each year our local association conducts the REALTORS® Annual Charity Auction to raise funds for this worthwhile charity.

On a more personal level, we at Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Real Estate adopt families during the holiday season providing them with food baskets and gifts to those in need. Since 2009 we have adopted 30 families with over 100 children. Staff and sales reps alike donate their time and money to shop, wrap, and distribute food and gifts to the families. Our offices are just a hive of activity during the holiday season.

I have touched on a few of the good deeds performed by REALTORS® but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the individual activities of REALTORS® such as donating blood, volunteering at schools and hospitals, driving cancer patients to appointments, delivering Meals on Wheels to name but a few.

Are we proud to be part of the REALTORS’® community? Absolutely! So the next time you see your REALTOR® give them a big THANK YOU!



More and more you are seeing real estate marketing directed toward the home buyer’s lifestyle.

Although, some buyers still buy homes because they show very well and are furnished nicely, they make buying decisions based on their emotions rather than logic.

For example, if a buyer likes to walk or ride a bike to run errands then perhaps the location of the house needs to be close to as many of these amenities as possible or if the buyer has a long commute to work their new house needs to be close to public transit or have good highway access. If there are children in the family then the location of schools and parks is important.

Now let’s talk about the house. What does the house need to have to fulfill the buyer’s lifestyle needs? In other words, how do they intend to use the house?

If they like to have friends over and everyone likes to pitch in with the food preparation then they may need a house with a large kitchen that opens up to a family room. This set up would also work well if there were younger children as they could be in the family room, in full sight, while the adults are preparing the meal.

Another thing to consider with children is the location of the bedrooms, because of noise levels in the house when children are sleeping. The yard should be an adequate play area for the children to enjoy their outdoor activities. As the children get older, will the house adapt well to their new needs, such as a place to go when their friends come to visit. It’s funny how your house seems to shrink as your children grow up.

To sum it all up, the buying tip is, when you are looking to buy your first or next home, make sure you seriously consider all your lifestyle needs and make your decision based on how you will be using the home to satisfy those needs.