Hot bathroom trends – The Globe and Mail | #Toronto #realestate

Reno Trends

Hot bathroom trends

An embossed floral pattern adds interest to a pedestal sink by Vancouver's Blu Bathworks (<a href=).” width=”360″ />

An embossed floral pattern adds interest to a pedestal sink by Vancouver’s Blu Bathworks (

The latest in options for the modern loo, from tiles that mimic leather and silk to cutting-edge tubs and showers

Deirdre Kelly

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

When it comes to bathrooms, big is definitely better this year.

According to designers and industry experts, even the most basic bathroom renovations involve enlarging these once hidden, utilitarian rooms into bigger, brag-worthier spa-like oases.

The results, though, are hardly minimalist. Walk-in showers are grander and waterworks are splashier; patterned tiles simulate the look of damask, lace and leather. In many ways, the bathroom has gone baroque.

“The bathroom has become a sanctuary for all the senses,” says Nelson Costa of AyA Kitchens and Baths in Mississauga, Ont. “Customers are no longer looking at bathrooms as just bathrooms. Making them bigger, more inclusive spaces is a trend that we see growing.”

William Mockler of Toronto’s Drawing Room Architect Inc. says that roomier, plusher lavatories entail a need for unconventional, larger-scale furniture that meets new functions and fills up space.

“We’re introducing features like upholstered chairs and ottomans and pedestal tables for resting drinks,” says Mockler. “Bathrooms are no longer about just a quick … shower. They’re becoming a lot more indulgent.”

To facilitate this personalization of loos, suppliers have introduced a wide range of options, from basins sporting delicate floral patterns inspired by 18th-century Chinese printwork to so-called anti-bacterial tiles.

Here are some of the season’s top bathroom trends, according to designers and retailers:


This year, basin shapes are noticeably softer and tub designs look much more organic. One example is the new amoeba-shaped sink in Laufen’s Palomba line ( “Laufen’s designers feel that bathroom design is moving toward softer, purer shapes,” spokeswoman Jocelyn Hutt explains. “And they want their sinks to evoke feelings of being in a natural setting.”

Wood, meanwhile, has already made inroads in bathrooms in the form of vanities and armoires. Less predictably, Montreal-based MAAX just unveiled a sculptural wood bathtub at the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Chicago, although that was just a prototype. What is currently available from MAAX ( is its sculptural egg-shaped Viaggi tub on bases made of such exotic woods as wenge, bamboo or vavona.


Is minimalism dead? Not quite, but ornate patterns, tactile surfaces and even the odd chandelier are giving white and pristine a run for their money.

Kohler’s new Chinese-inspired Empress Bouquet pattern for sinks and toilets, for instance, brings elegant florals back to the bathroom (see And the many embossed and hammered surfaces on the market – from the embossed floral design adorning the new blustone basin by Vancouver’s Blu Bathworks ( to the hammered-metal Touch27 faucets designed by Clodagh Signature for Watermark Designs ( – are adding interest and depth to normally sterile fixtures and furniture.

Last but not least, all of those massive freestanding bathtubs that are gaining in popularity practically scream for equally elaborate lighting gestures, such as sparkling chandeliers dangling above.


If Salvador Dali was alive (and a bathroom designer) today, he would no doubt love all the tiles mimicking lace, linen and leather on the market right now.

“Consumers have incredible choice beyond the usual beige, black and grey tiles,” says Federico Gasperetti, vice-president of Savoia Canada, which showcases tiles boasting a number of trompe l’oeil effects.

“This latest trend focuses on bringing character and life to a room, to being daring through colour, pattern and texture.”

As novel as they are, however, these trompe l’oeil tiles are remarkably flexible, suiting everything from clubby, masculine retreats (should you fancy leather) to feminine inner sanctums (damask or lace).

For a full range of options, visit


If you’re not a tub person, don’t worry: There are walk-in showers on the market this spring to rival even the sexiest soakers. One of the most sophisticated is MAAX’s recently launched Exposé stall, which is available in three sizes (the biggest is a capacious 66 by 42 inches) and comes in alcove, corner or wall-mounted versions.

Most luxuriously, the frameless wood-trimmed glass unit also includes a folding slatted seat, a slatted wood floor tray and seamless sliding doors that enable it to turn into a fully functioning steam room. Bells and whistles aside, however, such showers hold great appeal among a new and growing consumer base: aging boomers coping with mobility issues.


Remember Grade 10 science class? Even if you don’t, today’s bathroom designs are poised to offer a refresher.

Among other innovations, the new Active Clean-Air & Antibacterial Ceramics by Savoia Canada purport to be self-cleaning through photocatalysis, a naturally occurring oxidization process that takes place when the titanium dioxide used in making the tiles comes in direct contact with sunlight or artificial UVA rays.

Questions of knocking out windows or shining spotlights on the tile to activate the process aside, the claim is an appealing one.

Now if only those toilets would also clean themselves.

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Canadian, Ottawa home resale prices show softness in February | #Ottawa #Toronto #realestate

Canadian, Ottawa home resale prices show softness in February

Canada’s real estate boom showed signs of easing in February, with prices in Ottawa even slipping from the month before, according a report issued Wednesday.

The Teranet-National Bank composite house price index revealed a one-per-cent drop in Ottawa values as well as a 0.4-per-cent decline in Calgary.

Across Canada, prices rose 0.2 per cent, the smallest increase since the start of a post-recession rebound.

But Ottawa prices were still up 7.2 per cent from a year earlier, and the slight drop from January wasn’t viewed as evidence of any new trend.

“We have already seen, during the recovery, an isolated monthly price drop for other cities — and why not for Ottawa?” said Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist with National Bank Financial Group.

The Ottawa Real Estate Association has also reported a drop in prices despite a “brisk February” for sales.

The association said the average transaction price was $317,030, down from $320,966 in January.

Board president Pierre de Varennes cautioned not to make too much of the small samples provided by early-year sales.

“It’s a little difficult to extrapolate from the two lowest months, which are January and February,” he said.

Unlike studies based on Multiple Listing Service sales, the Teranet-National Bank index tracks data from public land registries in six metropolitan areas. It measures price changes but does not report on specific values.

Its findings can vary widely from price information from the Canadian Real Estate Association, but Mr. Pinsonneault suggested the CREA figures may not give a full picture of a market.

In Toronto, for example, a large part of a 19.4-per-cent jump in prices reported by CREA was driven by sales of properties worth more than $500,000, he said. The composite index pegs Toronto’s year-over-year increase at a lower, though still hefty, 13.3 per cent.

The rate of increases in Canada is expected to continue to ease.

“This development is consistent with a general loosening of market conditions across the country,” said Pinsonneault.

“For some months now, homes have been coming on the market faster than they have been selling.”

In Ottawa, however, listings remain in short supply, and the board is projecting strong sales through May, with the market returning to more balanced conditions in later months.

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Personal finance tips: Time’s up, tax-filing procrastinators | #Toronto

Personal finance tips

Time’s up, tax-filing procrastinators

Former dawdler Adam Salahudeen of Scotiabank offers his best last-minute filing tips

Dianne Nice

Globe and Mail Update

Adam Salahudeen never misses a tax-filing deadline. The senior manager of taxation advisory services at the Bank of Nova Scotia has a secret weapon.

“It’s called my wife,” he jokes. “My wife happens to be a chartered accountant.”

At tax time, there’s no searching through shoe boxes at the Salahudeen household. Every receipt and tax document is organized into three file folders: his, hers and the family’s.


Before marriage, however, Mr. Salahudeen said he was always a last-minute filer. “I can totally understand what it feels like.”

For those of us without an accountant in the family, Mr. Salahudeen offers up five tips for those filing at the last minute:


1 File – no matter what. File a tax return, even if you do not have any taxable income this year, because filing is the easiest way to establish your contribution room for the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Also, if you plan on applying for the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), you need to file a tax return in order to receive CCTB payments. You may also qualify for refundable tax credits, which have the benefit of being payable to you even if you have no earnings and have paid no tax. Also, if you’re a student and you don’t have any taxable income, consider deferring the claiming of student loan interest to a future year.


2 File on time. File your tax return on time, even if you cannot afford to pay the tax at the time of filing, in order to avoid the late-filing penalties. The late-filing penalty is 5 per cent of the balance owing, including an additional 1 per cent of the balance owing for each full month that the return is late, to a maximum of 12 months. If you owe taxes and are having a difficult time paying, filing on time will allow you to avoid incurring these additional costs.


3 Complete the RRSP repayment section of your return. Complete section 7 of your tax return to recognize any and all repayments to the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) or the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to ensure you don’t lose any RRSP contribution room. If you forget to properly identify the RRSP payments as a repayment of the HBP or LLP, the Canada Revenue Agency will add the minimum payment that was required for the year to your income and, as a result, your RRSP contributions will reduce your unused RRSP deduction room carried forward.


4 Plan ahead. In the last-minute scramble to file this year’s taxes, consider steps you can take to avoid this same problem next year. It seems simple, but organization is important year round. So, avoid the shoebox mentality and create organized folders now so you will have a place to file your receipts.


5 Reduce next year’s refund. Once you have filed your taxes, if you are getting a refund you may want to consider reducing your deductions at the source to avoid the large refund next year. While this might sound counterintuitive, a large tax refund is not the ideal outcome of filing your taxes. A tax refund is money you have loaned to the government interest free. Why not put that money to work for you? By filling out the T1213 form to reduce your deductions at source, you can earn interest year round – putting more money in your pocket.


6 Claim tuition fees as a medical expense. Tuition fees may be eligible for the medical expense tax credit if a medical practitioner certifies, in writing, that the teachers or equipment and facilities provided by the educational institution are required because of the student’s impairment.


7 Claim any medical expenses on the lower income spouse’s tax return. The lesser of $2,024 (federal, for 2010) or 3 per cent of your net income is deducted from the medical expenses to determine the amount to be used for the available tax credit. Medical expenses incurred for the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse/common-law partner and dependent children under 18 are claimed on line 330 of your tax return.


8 Claim private school as child care or a charitable donation. If they relate to child care services, a portion of private school fees may be considered to qualify as child care costs. Child care costs are claimed as a deduction from income on line 214 of your personal tax return. In most cases, child care expenses for an eligible child must be claimed by the parent with the lower net income for tax purposes. Also, special circumstances apply where all or a portion of the fees paid to a private school may be considered to be a charitable donation, and as a result, may qualify for the charitable donation tax credit. This applies to a school that teaches religion only, as well as schools that operate in a dual capacity of providing both religious and academic education.


Source:  Globe and Mail

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The pros and cons of taking a tenant in home or condo | #Toronto #realestate #real_estate

The pros and cons of taking a tenant in home or condo

Management companies can do the work — for a fee

Real estate agent Jasmine Parsons, above, says homes with a

Real estate agent Jasmine Parsons, above, says homes with a “mortgage helper” suite are in great demand in Victoria. Not everybody wants the suite for a paying tenant, though: “In-law” suites allow three generations to live under one roof, right.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist, Times Colonist

Most first-time single family home buyers in Victoria look for houses that have the potential for a basement suite, say mortgage experts. There’s a reason these suites are referred to in advertisements as “mortgage helpers.”

The Canadian Real Estate Association lists Victoria house prices as the second most expensive in the country. Taking in a tenant is the only way for many young homebuyers to keep their heads above water.

“If you don’t mind the loss of privacy, renting a downstairs suite is the easiest way to augment your income,” says Ted Jones, an accredited mortgage professional. “It enables you to buy up — to afford more of a mortgage than one just based on personal income.”

He says income from a mortgage-helper gives many first-time buyers an opportunity to move out of a condominium. Banks use the rental income as a determinant for how much an applicant can afford. Canada Mortgage and Housing guidelines allow 50 per cent of the gross rental income to be included in the borrower’s gross annual income for the purposes of calculating the borrower’s total debt service ratio — the maximum amount a person can effectively borrow.

“Without a rental suite I couldn’t have dreamed of owning a house,” says Joanne Sapala, a single mom with an 11-year-old son. “I was previously living in a condo and in order to afford a house, in my price bracket I had to find one with a suite.”

The 750-square-foot, one-bedroom suite downstairs, complete with it’s own laundry room, is rented for $850 a month.

Unfortunately Sapala recently lost her job and decided it was best to sell her house. It sold in one day. Her real-estate agent, Jasmine Parsons, was not surprised.

“The majority of my younger clients are looking for houses with a suite downstairs,” says Parsons, of One Percent Realty, Vancouver Island. “For the most part it allows them to qualify for more of a mortgage — [which permits] a better house.”

She says that sometimes the extra room is not for any financial gain but to house extended family members under one roof — a true in-law suite. Rentals are a possibility later, after children grow and leave home or when parents seek other accommodation.

She estimates a house with a suite can, on average, sell for between five to eight per cent more than a comparable house without one. Typical rents for a one-bedroom suite can range from $750 to $900. A two-bedroom can command between $900 to $1,300.

Renting out a residence also applies to condominiums. Owners who find they have been transferred to another city and who desire to return and investors hoping for future real-estate appreciation would likely rent their condos.

“It’s about affordability,” says Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association of B.C. “Most investors don’t have the ability to buy a 20- or 30-unit apartment building, but they can afford to buy individual condos and rent them out.”

Buyers should consult with the individual strata plans to make sure the particular building allows rentals. Having rental units in a building does not adversely affect resale either, he says.

But renting out a home or apartment can be a pleasure or a pain in the butt. It’s Jason Middleton’s job to manage rental property and make sure it’s the former.

“People entrust me with their biggest asset,” says Middleton, president of Cornerstone Properties, a property management company. “We step into the shoes of the owner to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

He says the side of his business that manages rental properties has grown by more than 33 per cent in the past six years. Some of his clients are out-of-town people who have bought property in this area with the plan of moving in when they retire. Others are investors who hold on to property in the hope of future capital gains.

His services include marketing the suite, screening potential tenants, collecting rent, maintenance and dealing with the strata council. He boasts a rental default rate of about half of one per cent.

In the last year, he has seen a new type of client as developers — caught in the economic downturn — put unsold condo units into the rental pool so that they can generate some cash flow until the properties can be relisted when the market improves.

With the local vacancy rate hovering around one per cent, demand usually outstrips supply. Middleton says the vacancy rate has risen from half a per cent due to losing clients to the downturn and low interest rates. Lower condo and house prices combined with historically low interest rates made paying a mortgage about the same as paying rent, turning some renters into first-time home buyers, and in some cases, landlords themselves.

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Property market showing 2 of 3 ‘bubble’ signs, report says | #Ottawa #Toronto #realestate #economy

Property market showing 2 of 3 ‘bubble’ signs, report says

April 27, 2010 | 18:01

Canada’s real estate market is demonstrating two of the three “bubble” characteristics and Canadians should brace themselves for the possible impact of a housing downturn, investment firm Edward Jones said in a report Tuesday.

“Despite recent economic strength, housing prices have outpaced the overall economy, including unemployment trends and Gross Domestic Product Growth,” the report authored by analysts Kate Warne and Craig Fehr said.

 Flickr / Think Panama

“As a result, our stance on Canadian housing market risk is becoming increasingly cautious.”

The three conditions of a bubble are, according to the report, overvalued house prices, easily obtainable credit and lax regulation. The first two already exist and the government has taken steps to avoid the third condition, the report said.

The average resale price of a home rose 19.3% in 2009 to $337.410, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. This average home price is five times the average after-tax income, compared to the long-time average of 3.7 times, Edward Jones said.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates fell to new lows. This poses a risk to consumer spending as a greater number of variable and short-term mortgage holders deal with rising rates in the next few months, it said.

A 3% increase in mortgage rates (on a $87-billion pool of short-term mortgages originating between 2007 and 2009) means mortgage payments for these borrowers could jump by an average of $444 per month for a mortgage of $254,514.

Fewer discretionary dollars in consumer pockets could eventually cut into GDP, Edward Jones said.

But several changes have the potential to dampen demand, side-stepping a housing bust, Edward Jones said.

They include new tighter lending standards, rising interest rates and mortgage costs, a pick up in new supply, consumer deleveraging and harmonized sales taxes in B.C. and Ontario.

“We believe fundamental factors exist that suggest a softening in the housing market in lieu of a crash of the magnitude experienced in the U.S.”

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney told a House of Commons finance committee Tuesday he expects Canada’s red-hot housing market to cool in this quarter and to continue into the next few years.

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Appreciate your house, but don’t expect it to appreciate a lot

Appreciate your house, but don’t expect it to appreciate a lot

History suggests the decade-long runup in prices may not continue

Dan Richards


Recently, the real estate industry has dominated the headlines.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, raised warning flags about the impact of higher interest rates on those Canadians who are already stretching to carry their mortgages.

There’s been coverage of the dispute between the Competition Bureau and the real estate industry over proposals that would allow greater price competition among real estate agents.

And there have been suggestions from within the industry that there needs to be increased professionalism among real estate agents.

For many Canadians, none of these is the central issue when it comes to real estate. Rather, the key question comes down to the appreciation they can expect on the investment in their home.

After all, the past decade has been a great period for homeowners. Expecting this to continue, some Canadians have stretched to buy larger houses now, before prices get away from them. Research firm Investor Economics points out that residential mortgages are at a record level, approaching $1-trillion.

Investor Education:


The lessons of history

I had a conversation with Royal LePage president Phil Soper about the kinds of returns Canadians can expect on their houses.

His central point is that, over the long term, house prices appreciate with incomes; since the early 1960s, his data show that house prices have grown by 2.4 per cent a year after inflation – what economists call the real return.

Along the way, though, there have been lots of periods of dramatic fluctuation in house prices and many instances where individual cities experienced movements up and down that were very different from the national average.

The 1980s saw a big runup in housing prices, as demand grew from baby boomers establishing families and interest rates declined from their peaks in the early part of that decade. As house prices rose, affordability went down – by 1989, Canadians were devoting an all-time record proportion of their incomes to carry their houses.

This led to a substantial correction in housing prices and to a lost decade for house prices in the 1990s. In fact, Mr. Soper pointed out that house prices went down in the 1990s after inflation was taken into account, the only decade on record where this happened.


The past 10 years

By 2000, incomes had moved ahead of house prices, laying the ground for substantial appreciation over the past 10 years.

A recent report by TD Economics pointed to annual increases in house prices over the past decade of 8 per cent, among the highest in memory.

As a result, the percentage of Canadians’ incomes devoted to carrying their houses has risen sharply to what Mr. Soper called the “affordable/expensive” level. The proportion of income dedicated to housing is not at the record levels of 1989 – but when mortgage rates rise, there is no question that some Canadians will be hard-pressed to carry their houses.


An academic’s perspective

Another point of view comes from Cynthia Holmes, professor of real estate at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Her research shows that over the very long term, average house prices go up with inflation – but typically don’t provide much in the way of a real return at all.

She points to exceptions – for example, areas going through a transition in housing quality can experience she calls “windfall gains.” She identifies substantial benefits to owning a house – it creates forced savings and can lead to psychological satisfaction from the pride of owning versus renting, but as a whole, houses have not been particularly good investments over the long term.

As evidence, she pointed to research tracking house prices in a central area of Amsterdam over 347 years, from 1628 to 1974. Price appreciation in real terms was very close to zero and nearly all of the growth in real value that did occur happened in two exceptional periods.

More on mortgages


Price outlook

Psychologists point to a phenomenon called the recency effect – where recent events shape our expectations. As a result, some Canadians are expecting the kinds of appreciation on their houses they saw in the past 10 years – and are almost certain to be disappointed.

In a recent conversation with a group of retirees, a number talked about the “old days” of the fifties and sixties, when people thought about trading up in houses over time, without being concerned that prices would get away from them. One talked about considering the purchase of a more expensive house and deciding to wait – and five years later buying that same house at almost the identical price it would have sold for originally.

For the next while at least, people would be well advised to go back to the traditional reasons for owning a house, which is living in an environment they enjoy – and tempering hopes that their house will be a great investment.

Dan Richards is president of Clientinsights. He is a faculty member in the MBA program at the Rotman School at the University of Toronto. He can be reached at

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CBC News – Money – Ottawa boosts Canada’s GDP forecast | #Ottawa #realestate #economy #fnance #business #Toronto

Canada’s economy should grow by half-a-percentage more in 2010 than initially predicted, according to a new survey of private sector economists released Monday.

Canada’s gross domestic product will expand by 3.1 per cent in 2010, compared to the 2.6 per cent predicted at the time of the government’s spring budget, according to the Department of Finance’s latest poll of 15 economists, taken in March.

Ottawa regularly surveys private economists and uses these projections as the basis for its budget modeling.

Even at the new, faster pace, the government’s GDP growth is still slower than the projection of the Bank of Canada. Earlier in April, the Canadian central bank said the national economy would expand by 3.7 per cent in 2010.

Many economists have been hiking their GDP projections in recent months after seeing areas, such as real estate and consumer demand, performing better than anticipated.

Ottawa pointed out, however, that, while the prediction for growth in 2010 has risen, that for the period 2009 to 2014 — an average of two per cent — has not.

Canada’s GDP growth of 3.1 per cent now matches the growth predicted for the U.S. economy by the Conference Board of Canada on Monday.


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