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A smorgasbord of holiday doings & a favourite recipe


There is sooo much to choose from in the Valley this month, we have to jump right in . . .



Craft Fairs

Don’t worry, there’s still time to hit some markets and get in some not-quite-last-minute shopping. Here are a few faves: 

  • Touch of Class Christmas Market – Being held on December 10 and 11, this is a European-style artisan market. Located in the cozy Little Red Church on Comox Ave, you will find glass next to jewelry next to weaving next to pottery next to paintings next to baking… Admission is free and doors are open from 10 to 4 both days.
  • Christmas Market at Crown Isle – Check out local artists and vendors on Sunday, December 11 from 12:00–8:00 pm in the clubhouse. Whether you need a stocking stuffer or one-of-a-kind gift, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
  • Made with Love Christmas Market – On December 18, head down to the Native Sons Hall and support small businesses. Open from 10 to 4 (with the Big Guy showing up for pics between 1:30 and 2:30), admission is with a donation to the local food bank. Come for the fun and stay for the food trucks!
  • And, as always, the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market runs on Saturday mornings right up to Christmas at the Native Sons Hall.
 

Christmas Music

Music makes the holidays merry and bright, so have a look at these fine options. Look online for information about tickets and times. 

  • Strathcona Symphony Orchestra’s Opera Night – Like music at Christmas but not necessarily Christmas music? The SSO fits the bill. Featuring works by Mozart, Bizet and Rossini, you’ll love this showcase that also features Vancouver Island opera singers. Shows take place on December 10 and 11.
  • Celebration Singers Choirs - The always-popular choirs flex their vocal muscles and range during two shows December 9th & 10th at St. George’s United. Three choirs for the price of one!
  • Holiday Horns with The Festive Brass – Love a little horn or a lot? This 12-piece Victoria-based ensemble will set the Christmas mood with some bouncy brass tunes. Check them out on December 16th at Comox United Church.


Holiday Fun

Need to get out and move about? Bundle up for these festive activities.

  • Holiday Resort Walk – Starting in early December the eighth annual walk begins and ends at the clubhouse. Enjoy thousands of lights then visit with Santa and have a look at the Gingerbread Village. Visit their website for dates and times.
  • Kingfisher’s Serenity Gardens Winter Light Display – Even more illumination has been added to the hundreds of thousands of lights for their fourth annual show. Stand among glowing maple trees, weeping willows, shimmering tulips, illuminated grasses, mystical mushrooms and much more. The display runs from November to February.  


A Classic Family Recipe . . .

My mom used to make this recipe for Christmas morning from her favourite cookbook, The Best of Bridge. Called the “Christmas Morning Wife Saver,” it can be made ahead of time and baked the morning of. Or if you’re a breakfast-for-dinner kinda family, go for it! 

  • 16 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 16 slices Canadian back bacon or ham
  • 16 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper (2 mL)
  • 1/2-1 tsp. dry mustard (2-5 mL)
  • 1/4 cup minced onion (60 mL)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper (60 mL)
  • 1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (5-10 mL)
  • 3 cups milk (750 mL)
  • dash Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter (125 mL)
  • Special K or crushed Corn Flakes

Method:

  1. Set 8 pieces of bread into a 9″ x 13″ (23 x 33 cm) buttered, glass baking dish.
  2. Cover bread with slices of back bacon. Lay slices of cheddar cheese on top of bacon and then cover with remaining slices of bread to make it like a sandwich.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs and pepper. To the egg mixture, add dry mustard, onion, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, milk and Tabasco. Pour over the sandwiches, cover and let stand in fridge overnight.
  4. In the morning, melt butter and pour over top. Cover with Special K or crushed Corn Flakes.
  5. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour at 350 deg. F (180 deg. C). Let sit 10 minutes before serving.


Whatever your fancy, make sure to get out and enjoy all the Valley has to offer at this special time of year. Best wishes to all!


For more information about all aspects of living in the Comox Valley, visit my website or my Facebook page. And for specific real estate questions, please feel free to get in touch.

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Get your house and yard ready for pumpkin-spice season


Autumn has so much going for it – baseball playoffs, start of hockey season, sweaters and pumpkin spice. But along with that awesomeness comes colder, wetter weather.


Sure, you’re in the right state of mind to enjoy a nice nutmeggy latte and the kids being back in school, but are your home and yard ready to welcome the change in seasons?


Not to worry. You’ve still got time to both enjoy the fall colours and prep your place for the avalanche of leaves to come. Check out the following suggestions and you’re on your way to ensuring your property will withstand the coming weather.


If you can get even a few of these things done, just think how smart you’ll feel when it’s a dark, rainy night in late November.   



Inside your home


Check smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Safety first! Now that your furnace, heaters and woodstoves are back in action, it’s a good time to ensure all your detectors and extinguishers are functioning properly. Check batteries and expiry dates at least once a year.


Draft-proof doors and windows. Weatherstripping and door sweeps will keep the cold out and the heat in, saving energy and money in the process. And don’t forget about any gaps around the garage door. (Because you know that the mice won’t!)


Check furnace/gas heater, replace filters. If it has been a while since you had your heating system checked, you may want to call in the pros. At the very least, ensure your furnace has new filters.


Ready your woodstove/fireplace. Either call in the cleaner or do it yourself, but make sure you start the wood-burning season with an unclogged chimney. Check the seal around the stove door and look for any cracks around glass doors.   


Prepare items for power outages/restock emergency kits. When was the last time you looked at your emergency kit? Now’s the time to check over items and replace old water, expired foods or pooped-out batteries. Don’t have one? Check out this list from the Red Cross.



Readying your home’s exterior for fall


Clean and straighten your gutters and downspouts. Yuck…nobody likes this one, but to avoid leaks and ice dams later in winter, this one is important. Clean out the leaves, moss and needles, flush it with water, check the joints and tighten any loose brackets.


Inspect your roof. Make sure your roof is in good shape to avoid any problems later in the year. Look for missing or loose shingles, tiles or fascia.  


Protect outdoor faucets from freezing. Shut off water to exterior faucets to avoid having your pipes freeze or burst and put insulation around them.


Seal gaps to avoid critters seeking shelter. Check your foundation for small holes or gaps and fill or cover them. Not only can openings allow entryway for rodents, but also water can get in, freeze and cause more cracks or mould.


Check stairs, railings, decks and walkways. Watch for any loose steps or railings that can lead to mishaps. Think about areas that may get slippery or icy and do something about it before the weather turns.


Test outdoor lights. Lights can help with safety on those long, dark evenings. Replace any burnt-out bulbs while it’s still light out.

 


Out in the yard


Rake, cut, fertilize, aerate, seed the lawn. Now’s the time to work it, so it looks good next spring and summer.


Bring in outdoor furniture, winterize your barbecue. A little care goes a long way in getting more life out of your furniture and grill.


Drain garden hoses, deal with in-lawn sprinkler. Empty and roll up your hoses so that they can be used again next summer. And make sure your sprinkler doesn’t freeze over resulting in pipes expanding in the cold months.


Prune trees and shrubs, protect plants that need it. Cut away any dead, tired or wandering branches, lay mulch around plants that need more insulation and plant a few bulbs for spring.

 


Okay, time to start plugging away. Tick off a couple items over the next few weekends and before you know it, you’ll be done. Then you can make yourself an apple pie and settle back to watch the World Series!



For other house-and-homey information, visit the blog section of my website. Questions about real estate opportunities in the Valley? Feel free to contact me, browse Comox Valley real estate and MLS listings on my website or follow me on Facebook.

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A rundown of activities to take in and partake in

Hey, it’s summertime!


After a long couple of years and a particularly wet spring, it’s time to get out and start enjoying the many varied activities this region has to offer.


From festivals and get-togethers to outdoor activities and recreation, there’s no shortage of fun to be had. So why not jump right in and start making plans?



Festivals are back!

Yay! Festivals are returning and, fittingly, it starts with the Vancouver Island MusicFest, running July 8 to 10 at the Exhibition Grounds in Courtenay. Three days of uplifting, spine-tingling performances that feature a broad range of musical styles and artists. The headliner this year is the ageless wonder Taj Mahal.  


This summer also sees the return of Comox’s Filberg Festival and Comox Nautical Days on the August long weekend. Filberg offers a great line-up of musicians as well as amazing artisans, while Nautical Days is known for its fireworks, BC Day parade and vintage car show as well as vendors, performers and family fun at the Comox Marina Park.


Cumberland Wild runs August 20th and 21st. An arts and culture music festival held in the heart of the Legendary Cumberland Village. Music, food and fun are the priority. Cumberland is also host to the Comox Valley Ribfest, near and dear to the hearts and stomachs of many! August 26 to 28 at Cumberland Village Park, there’s food, music and fun for the whole family.


Not exactly a festival, but Downtown Courtenay is celebrating its 50th Annual Market Day on July 16th. Eats, arts, crafts and merchants combine with entertainers to make for an enjoyable time. 



Recreation options around the Comox Valley

With three different community recreation centres, summer programming is plentiful. Whether you’re looking to keep the kids busy or hoping to find a class for yourself, it’s easy to get active.


Visit their various websites and find out what’s on tap this summer by clicking the following links: Courtenay Recreation; Comox Rec; Cumberland Recreation. Plus, private sailing camps, golf lessons, riding options and more can be found with a simple Google search.


Oh, and since you have the whole summer to prepare…. Here is your chance to swim, bike and run your way through the forests of Cumberland at The Dodge City X Off-Road Triathlon. As a proud local sponsor, I'm pleased that this annual event is back on September 10th. A tough course, it has been chosen to be the site of the national championship this year. If that sounds a little much, consider volunteering and cash in on some swell swag instead.



Arts and culture

Looking for a rainy-day getaway? As noted in my recent blog, Comox Valley’s galleries offer lovely diversions even on sunny days.


Prefer museums to galleries? Summer isn’t complete without checking out the Elasmosaurus at the Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre. The Cumberland Museum and Archives details the stories and history of the village and surrounding areas. Recently renovated, this jewel is open Tuesdays through Sundays in the summer. For those with an interest in aviation, the Comox Air Force Museum is a must. Plus, the airpark that surrounds it offers up-close views of a variety of aircraft. Super cool!


And make sure to check out the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market; it runs on Saturdays at the Exhibition Grounds as well as Sundays in Cumberland through the summer and Wednesday afternoons in Downtown Courtenay.

  


Life’s a beach – what’s your favourite?

We could debate over what’s the best local beach for the rest of summer, so let’s just agree that they’re all special. Following are some of my favourites.


Goose Spit is a great spot any time of year but truly shines in summer. And with wheelchair-accessible spots, everyone can enjoy it. Air Force Beach, on the other side of the Comox Peninsula, features a pavilion and picnic shelter next to its sandy beach. Free for the military community, civilians are also welcome as guests or with the purchase of a $25 annual beach pass. And neighbouring Kye Bay Beach offers similar sandy areas and tidal pools. If you have the chance to hit Hornby Island, make sure to stop in at Tribune Bay. With its sandy white beaches and warm, shallow waters the feeling there is tropical.

  


Camping fun in the Comox Valley

Want to get out of the house and set up camp for a few days? The Comox Valley has several tenting and RV options, here are just a few.


Located about 20 km north of downtown Courtenay, Miracle Beach Provincial Campground has more than 200 large family-oriented campsites. Reservations can be made through the provincial government website. Cumberland Lake Park Campground on Comox Lake is a family-oriented park, with 62 sites. Some have hookups and some don’t, but all are near the concession, boat launch and enclosed swimmers-only area. Located in the Comox Valley and overlooking the Strait of Georgia, Kin Beach Provincial Park offers a large day-use area with picnic facilities and a playground, as well as an 18-site campground. With full RV hookups as well as cozy and peaceful tenting sites on a truly unique oceanfront setting, Bates Beach RV Park offers convenience with a view.



With so much to see and do this summer, you better get on it! As always, for more information on playing and living in this beautiful area or buying and selling real estate in the Comox Valley,  contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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The latest trends on Vancouver Island

Finally, we can say that inventory is increasing! It’s still not even close to satisfying demand, but it’s something…


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which, with the recent weather, I don’t blame you), you’ll know that record-low supply in the Valley and across the Island in the past year has resulted in record-high, above-asking-price sales figures. And while prices, in general, are still increasing, the past month has seen a slight slowdown in the number of multiple-offer situations.


Some Island real state agents are getting more conditional offers with fewer people buying sight unseen and skipping home inspections. All of which suggests the recent flurry could be slightly subsiding. Increases in interest rates may be moderating the amount that buyers are prepared to pay out. While it is too soon to know if conditions will be moving to a stabler and more neutral market, the past month’s numbers show that, at least for now, things have balanced ever so slightly.


Of course, a significant decrease in demand will have to occur to get active listings somewhat normalized again. And with lingering Covid-19 effects, still-low mortgage rates and increasing inflation, prices are staying high.


Check out the recent stats from the Vancouver Island Realty Board (VIREB) for April 2022.

 

The Comox Valley real estate market

As noted, low inventory has resulted in continued increases in home prices. However, the number of listings is slightly increasing, so hopefully buyers will be able to have a little more to choose from and a little more time to make those choices.


For single-family homes in the Valley, the average sell price for April 2022 hit $910,178; that’s up 16 percent from $783,458 in April of 2021. The number of homes listed in April 2022 was 126 compared to 114 the previous year. And the average number of days on the market increased to 18 from 14, year over year. Condominium sell prices increased 31 percent over this time last year, and townhouses went up 20 percent compared to last April.


Other Island markets so far this spring

For the Island as a whole, single-family home active listings rose by 34 percent, compared to last April. And, in fact, it increased by 32 percent from March of 2022. Inventory of condos decreased 13 percent, year over year but did increase from March. And townhouse/row house inventory rose by 39 percent compared to April 2022, and by 52 compared to the previous month.


In terms of benchmark sales prices, all regions of the Island saw increases. Year over year, Campbell River went up 31 percent; Cowichan Valley increased 36 percent; Nanaimo prices climbed 33 percent; Parksville-Qualicum rose 38 percent; and Port Alberni increased a whopping 46 percent over April 2021!


New legislation may come along to protect buyers

On March 28, 2022, the BC provincial government announced changes to legislation to allow for a Homebuyer Protection Period; this new plan would introduce a five-day “cooling-off” period for real estate transactions as a way to protect consumers.


In a press release from the BC government, Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance explained, “In our overheated housing market, we have seen buyers feeling pressure to waive conditions just to be considered, and new homeowners discovering costly problems only after a deal has closed. We want to make sure people buying a home have time to get the information they need to make a sound decision within limits that still give sellers the certainty they need to close sales.”


As of early May, implementation of the plan has not yet occurred.


If you are thinking about buying or selling in or out of the Comox Valley, working with an experienced local realtor is crucial in these interesting and ever-evolving times.


To find out more about Comox Valley real estate, please feel free to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Art galleries and art lessons – something for everyone


Heading into the last month of winter, the promise of spring is there. But it’s still chilly outside and dark before supper. Searching for something to brighten the waning winter days and inject a little colour into your life? Why not look to the local art scene for some inspiration.


One of the best things about living in the Comox Valley is our thriving arts community. Hundreds of established and experienced artists call the Valley home, and the rest of us are the better for it.


And that also means opportunities to see – and make – art abound.


Following is a listing of some of the area’s local galleries, as well as a couple of studios spaces where you can take part in making art of your own.


Where the art hangs in the Comox Valley

Comox Valley Art Gallery

Located in Downtown Courtenay at the corner of 6th and Duncan, the institution has been around since the early 1970s and relocated to its current location in 2005. The former Courtenay Fire Hall offered a central location and setting that lends itself to its current unique design – ideal for displaying visual art of all kinds. Not only does it have numerous exhibitions every year, as well as a gift shop featuring local artisans, but it also acts as the central hub for creative endeavours throughout the Valley. The mission of the gallery is to present and foster contemporary art by professional artists from the region, the country and beyond. Their exhibitions, events, performances, publications, creative residencies and education programs engage the public and enliven the community.


Pearl Ellis Art Gallery

This downtown Comox gallery has been on the scene since the 1980s. Established as a location to highlight local Valley talent, for many student groups and budding artists, this is their first experience having their work on public view. Accomplished local artists also use it to hold one-man shows in their home community. There’s always something worth looking at here!


Artful: The Gallery

Near downtown Courtenay on Cumberland Road, Artful: The Gallery offers talented emerging and mid-career BC artists a space to exhibit and sell their works. It’s actually the working studio of multimedia artist Kristina Campbell. Visitors are always welcome to visits and learn about contemporary art on the West Coast. A beautiful place to spend an hour whether you’re a collector looking to buy or an artist looking for inspiration.


Spirits of the West Coast Art Gallery

Located in East Courtenay on Back Road, this beautiful gallery displays a wide variety of authentic Northwest Coast art and jewellery. You’ll be impressed by the gorgeous selection of Native masks, paddles, argillite carvings, sculptures, prints, silver and gold jewellery from artists of Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw or Kwakiutl, Coast Salish and West Coast descent. Whether you want a special gift, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece or just a nice afternoon out, you’ll find it here.


Once you hit all those spots, you can check out the I-Hos Gallery on Comox Avenue and the Comox Valley Airport for more opportunities to take in local and Island artistic works.


Making art in the Comox Valley

Of course, looking at art is awesome, but making art is even better. And the Valley provides several options for those willing to try their hand at something creative.


Lupine Art Studio

Located in Courtenay’s downtown core, this studio offers beginners, novices and advanced learners a supportive space to create. Offering a broad range of classes for all levels, the studio’s instructors teach skills and techniques using a wide variety of mediums. Be brave – join them for some fun!


Jan’s Glass Academy

Looking for a new medium? Jan works with stained glass and has had students come from around the world. From making mosaics to learning how to improve your soldering technique to an 8-week project, you will learn everything you need to know and more. Plus, the location on Comox Ave is spectacular! 


And make sure to check out all the art courses offered through Courtenay recreation. New classes start with every season. Plus, the Comox Valley Art Gallery holds workshops and occasional community “make-art projects,” so visit their website to subscribe to their newsletter and stay informed.   



As always, feel free to get in touch should you want information on any aspects of buying and selling real estate in the Comox Valley;  contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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Crafts, music, lights and more . . .


After a quiet season last year, Christmas events are back!


And while we must still follow provincial guidelines, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the Comox Valley. Here’s a collection of outings and events that will make you feel like decking the halls in no time.


Craft Fairs

It’s not too late to find some seasonal markets. Following is a brief list of some local favourites:


-   Elevate Winter Bazaar: The ninth annual bazaar happens in Downtown Courtenay at the Legion on December 3rd (4:30-9 pm) & 4th (10:30-4), 2021. A unique and delicious craft market, they even offer Friday night “dance-shopping” with cocktails! 


-   Black Creek Christmas Craft Fair: Head up to the Black Creek Community Centre on Saturday, December 4 from 10:00 to 4:00 and do some holiday shopping in a rustic, country setting. You’ll find some perfect gifts for your loved ones.


-   Christmas Market at Crown Isle: On Sunday, December 12 from 12:00 – 8:00 pm you can find everything from stocking stuffers to one-of-a-kind handmade gifts. Featuring local vendors from the Comox Valley and beyond, the clubhouse will be festive and full of fun.


-   And don’t forget that the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market runs on Saturday mornings right up to Christmas at the Native Sons Hall.


Christmas Tunes

The holidays aren’t the holidays without some music, right? Fortunately, we’re able to get together and sing this year, so make sure to check out these faves. Look online for information about tickets and protocols.


-   Just in Time Choirs: The Saturday, December 4th matinee and evening shows will have you rockin’ to hits from the 80s at the Comox Pentecostal Church. Not exactly Christmassy but fun, nonetheless.


-   Comox Valley Concert Band: Another item for December 4th! Check out the annual show featuring music from different eras and around the world, plus favourite holiday standards. The music starts at 2:00 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay.


-   Home for the Holidays: New York singer and actor James Rich will be taking on the persona of Nat King Cole in this two-hour show at the Sid Williams Theatre on December 11.


-   Celebration Singers Choirs: The always-popular shows are back again this December 17 & 18 at St. George’s United. Get your tickets early as these concerts always sell out.  

  

Holiday Outings

If you have some extra time, bundle up the family and trek off to enjoy these local events at your own pace.


-   Holiday Resort Walk: Head up to the Clubhouse and have a walk around Crown Isle while enjoying thousands of lights, visits with Santa, s’mores and more. Then head inside to have a look at the Gingerbread Village. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!


-   Kingfisher Winter Light Display: This will be the third annual for “Serenity Gardens.” Hundreds of thousands of lights make for a magical setting.


-   Night Skiing at Mt. Washington: Weather permitting, you can hit the slopes after dark nightly from December 17 through to January 2. 



No matter where you go or what you do, have a safe, enjoyable and relaxing holiday season!



For more information about all aspects of living in the Comox Valley, visit my website or my Facebook page. And for specific real estate questions, please feel free to get in touch.

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Real estate trends for Vancouver Island


Historically low inventory along with low interest rates are keeping housing prices up across the Island.


According to the latest statistics from the Vancouver Island Realty Board (VIREB) for August 2021, active listings of single-family homes and town/rowhouses are 50 per cent lower than this time last year and condo apartment inventory is down 61 per cent. All of which means it’s tricky times for buyers!


Following are more stats from VIREB.

 

The Comox Valley real estate market

As with the rest of the Island, the Valley has seen a significant increase in prices, but not inventory, over the last year. In fact, the average price of a single-family Comox Valley home has risen to the second-most expensive in the region north of the Malahat. The year-over-year benchmark price in the Valley rose by 32 per cent to $772,800 this past August (and that doesn’t include acreages or waterfront properties).

  

Other Island real estate – August 2021

The board-wide benchmark price of a single-family home outside of Greater Victoria reached $740,900 in August – a 33 per cent increase from last year at this time and even slighter higher than the previous month. The most expensive area in the region for a single-family home is Parksville-Qualicum, with a benchmark price increase of 35 per cent to $863,800. While the lowest benchmark price for a single-family home of $394,400 in the North Island, that still is a year-over-year increase of 52 per cent from last August!


Campbell River’s benchmark price reached $650,800 in August, up by 33 per cent year over year. The Cowichan Valley benchmark price hit $733,600, an increase of 32 per cent from August 2020. Nanaimo’s benchmark price rose by 29 per cent to hit $741,900. And Port Alberni reached $492,400, up 43 per cent year over year.


What’s can we expect heading into fall?

Short answer? Expect more of the same.


According to Ian Mackay, 2021 VIREB President, “Because the real estate sector is driven by supply and demand, we expect that prices will continue to rise unless demand drops or listings increase.”


Even with a fall election and the various major parties’ focus on housing affordability, in the short term, not much will change. “Without a tangible plan to build more homes, we’re concerned that election promises will fall far short of what’s needed and do little to improve affordability,” notes Mackay. “Building more homes isn’t the easy solution, but it’s the key to making housing more affordable.”


To that end, BCREA, VIREB and other real estate boards continue advocating with policymakers at regional and provincial levels to accelerate the development process so municipalities can expand supply more briskly and meet demand.


In the short term, buyers need to be available to move quickly and work with an experienced local realtor to get in on listings as soon as possible. Sellers, on the other hand, can enjoy the enviable position of being in the driver’s seat for the next few months...or more.


To find out more about Comox Valley real estate, please feel free to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Getting started, choice perennials and a to-do list

No doubt about it, spring has sprung. The chill is gone, and the grass is growing! It’s even warm enough to get the seedlings out into the garden. Whether you are a newbie to gardening or have two green thumbs, there is always plenty to do and say about gardening.


Not quite ready to rototill? This blog will get you inspired to pull on your gardening gloves and start digging in. Let’s get growing!


Gardening tips for beginners

If you are not so much a gardener as an observer, knowing how to get going is often the hardest part. Following are a few tips to keep in mind should you be looking to turn over a new leaf and get into the gardening game:

  • Location, location, location! Just like with real estate, you need to think about where you want to be and do a little research. If you’re lucky enough to have a nice-sized yard, hopefully, you can find a spot that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, preferably that early morning kind. Next, take a shovel and check out the soil. If it is full of rocks and roots, you’ll want to keep looking. Of course, raised beds and containers are an option if you’d prefer to stay where you are. It’s also a good idea to stay close to a water source.
  • Begin with good soil: Nutrient-rich soil that drains well will lead to success. Muddy, rocky or clay-filled soil will need some work, but with the right mix of compost, sand, mulch, seaweed and other options, things will improve. It might be an idea to take a sample to your local garden centre and get some advice.
  • Start small: You know how sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach when it comes to food? Same with gardening. The bigger the garden, the greater the yield and, well, the greater the work. While the thought of freezing 20 pounds of tomatoes might be appealing, think about the weeds that will also come your way.
  • Choose the right plants and learn your frost dates: Again, asking your local growers what works for them and is well suited to this climate will save you time and effort. While artichokes and almond trees aren’t a possibility around here, plenty of good West Coast options are available. But make sure you know your frost dates because there is nothing more disappointing to see your efforts shrivelled up due to an unexpected cold snap.


5 Perennials suited for the West Coast

Most of us want a nice-looking yard – and the less work involved, the better! These perennials are not only easy to grow but also suited for the West Coast. Pop ’em in this spring and you’re good to go for many years to come!

  1. Shasta daisy: This happy flower features a sunny yellow centre surrounded by white petals. It looks pretty and bright in the garden, attracts butterflies and is a great cut flower to add some cheer to your home. It prefers full sun or part shade and well-drained soil; shastas will grow up to three feet tall and a foot wide.
  2. Daffodils and tulips: Looking for variety? Daffs and tulips come in an array of colours and size varieties. These beauties look great outside at the start of spring and can also be cut and brought into the home for a week or so. Full sun and moist, well-drained soil make them happiest, but they are adaptable to less-than-ideal conditions.
  3. Lupine: Known for its upright spires of flowers, lupine adds an architectural look to the garden. Often seen in shades of purple and blue, you can also find them in pinks, reds, oranges, yellows and white – something for every yard. Their preferred growing conditions include moderately fertile, light, slightly acidic soil in full sun or partial sun. They can reach up to three feet tall and a foot wide.
  4. Sword ferns: These plants are perfect for a shade garden; arching fronds add interesting architectural impact and unique texture to any yard. Evergreen, the rich colour shows all year long. Plant in fertile, rich, well-drained soil; and shady conditions. They can reach three feet in diameter.
  5. Hosta plants: Another lush foliage that is ideal for a low-maintenance garden.  Touted as shade lovers, they do have a need for some sun, but it depends on the colour of their leaves. A general rule is the lighter the foliage, the brighter the sun. The darker foliage retains colour best in moderate shade, while variegated varieties need more sunlight to keep their stripes. That said, all hostas need some shade as few, if any, thrive in strong, direct sun. They fully mature in four to eight years and can grow to three feet in diameter.

 

May gardening to-do list

May is when the action really starts to crank up. Here are some things that need to happen, both in the yard and in the garden:

In the Yard:

  • Fertilize azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias after they bloom with something appropriate for acid-loving plants.
  • Feed your roses with fertilizer and watch for fungus or disease.
  • Transplant trees and shrubs before any hot weather hits and keep them well watered.
  • Prune back any damage from winter.
  • Apply mulch to shrubs with shallow roots (such as camellias and azaleas) as protection from coming heat and weeds.
  • Let foliage from spring bulbs die back naturally on its own (cutting it back can risk the health of next year’s flowers). But deadhead perennials and bulbs throughout the blooming season.
  • Fertilize bulbs after blooming.
  • Plant perennials before the heat of summer and keep the water constant through the season.
  • For the lawn, set mower blades at two to three inches; mow often but don’t cut more than half the blade at a time.

In the Garden:

  • Start enjoying the cool-season vegetables (such as spinach, carrots, and lettuce) that you planted in March or get them in again.
  • Direct sow the seeds of your other annuals when night temperatures reach 9 Celsius regularly.
  • Harden off members of the nightshade (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) family. Once nighttime temperatures stay reliably above about 9 Celsius, plant them outdoors.
  • Plant successive crops of veggies every few weeks to extend your harvest.
  • Control weeds to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Add mulch to keep things wetter as the heat turns up.


Inspired (or maybe a bit tired) thinking about it? Whatever you get up to, enjoy your time outside!


As always, feel free to get in touch should you want information on any aspects of buying and selling real estate in the Comox Valley; contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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Housing trends on Vancouver Island

And we thought last year was interesting…


Recent months have seen record-low supply across the Island, including the Comox Valley, and that trend is continuing. This has resulted in an uptick in the number of multiple offers and unprecedented above-asking price sales – great for sellers, frustrating for buyers and a crazy time for realtors!


Following are Island stats from the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) for February 2021.

 

The past couple of months in the Comox Valley market

As noted in my last market update, record-low inventory ended the year. And as we head into spring, that continues to be the trend. This low supply and high demand have resulted in significant increases from last year. In January, the benchmark price of a single-family home was $620,100, up 11 per cent from a year ago. In February, the benchmark price sat at $631,400, up by 15 per cent from the previous year. Sellers are getting more than they ask, some even into six figures – unheard of!


Other Island markets this year

The entire Island is seeing a significant increase in pricing. According to the latest VIREB statistics, single-family homes in Campbell River hit $547,700 in February, up 18 per cent from last year. Duncan saw an increase of 17 per cent from this time in 2020. Nanaimo’s benchmark rose by 12 per cent, and Parksville-Qualicum area saw increases of 13 per cent to $695,600. Port Alberni and the North Island had 16 and 12 per cent year-over-year increases respectively.


What’s next?

While low interest rates have played a part, the major factor in the Island’s markets is the lack of supply. And that’s a hard one to do anything about, as 2012 VIREB President Ian Mackay explains.


“The federal and provincial governments tend to focus on demand-side policies instead of addressing the supply issue. Taxes and tighter mortgage restrictions are stopgap measures that don’t resolve the underlying problem.”


According to VIREB, the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) doesn’t expect the inventory situation to improve until more supply comes online later in the year. Meanwhile, BCREA and local real estate boards are encouraging provincial and regional-level policymakers to promote streamlining development processes in order to allow municipalities to expand supply more quickly in an attempt to meet demands.


If you’re looking to buy, in or out of the Comox Valley, working with an experienced local realtor is essential during times of multiple offers.


And if you are selling…lucky you!


To find out more about Comox Valley real estate, please feel free to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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(And what exactly is a seller’s market?)


Whether it’s due to pent-up demand, low-interest mortgage rates or the desire to move from COVID hotspots, interest in Vancouver Island and Comox Valley housing markets is at a high. Unfortunately, supply is at a record low. (Read about it in my recent blog!)


All this adds up to a seller’s market.


Even though late spring/early summer is typically regarded as the time to buy and sell, when the market is like it is now, time of year doesn’t make a difference. It comes down to supply and demand. Now – and for the foreseeable future – supply is low and everything is in demand. From condos and patio homes to acreages and standard family homes, the buyers are there but the listings are not. Listing now before the spring rush will help ensure you get the attention (and price) you want.


What makes a seller’s market?

Simply put, a seller’s market occurs due to a shortage in housing or an excess of potential buyers. In today’s circumstances, both are occurring. During this type of market, prices tend to be higher and homes sell more quickly. Multiple offers on a home are also more likely to occur, which gives sellers negotiating power, meaning conditional offers may be rejected.


Tips for listing in a seller’s market

Selling in this market is generally easy and quick. Even so, there are things to keep in mind when you are getting ready to list:

  • Work with an experienced local real estate agent to ensure you have a good understanding of the market and your competition.
  • Price your home right for the area. Overpriced homes will still be overlooked, so don’t go crazy!
  • Make sure your home is clean, clutter-free and ready to be shown at all times.
  • COVID has made scheduling a bit trickier, so it has never been more important to be accommodating to your real estate agent's/prospective buyer’s schedules. (And make sure to visit my website for updates and explanations of our COVID-19 protocols.)
  • Ensure your home has sufficient market exposure, don’t count on demand to do ALL the work for you.
  • Be patient . . . remember you’re in the driver’s seat.


Tips for buying in a seller’s market

For buyers, a seller’s market means multiple offers are to be expected. Some of the things you can do to improve your likelihood of success are as follows:

  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage and know how much you can afford.
  • Make your offer stronger with a significant deposit amount.
  • Be proactive and aggressive without being annoying. And be responsive.
  • Make your offer as simple as possible. Don’t have a long list of contingencies.
  • Be flexible with your move-in date.
  • Consider appealling to the seller with a personal letter.

Whether buying or listing, this is an exciting time to get into the market. Why wait until spring?


Please feel free to get in touch with me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Comox Valley market update and outlook – January 2021


In a year like no other, the Vancouver Island real estate market saw the lowest inventory on record to close out 2020.

While interest and prices continued to increase, November and December posted weaker sales because of fewer listings. As noted in the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board January news release, “The buyers are there, but the listings are not.”


In December, active Island listings of single-family detached properties numbered 421, compared to 541 in November, a 22 per cent decrease and the lowest number on record. Condo apartments and townhouse listings dropped 24 and 17 per cent, respectively, from November.

 

Pricing trends in the Vancouver Island and Comox Valley real estate markets

In terms of benchmark pricing, the Island average for a single-family home hit $546,900 in December, up 5 per cent from 2019. The apartment benchmark price reached $312,000, up 4 per cent; townhouse prices rose by 10 per cent to hit $450,100. The Comox Valley benchmark price reached $550,800, an increase of 4 per cent from last year. Campbell River saw a 12 per cent gain; Duncan was up 5 per cent; Nanaimo was up 1 per cent; Parksville-Qualicum area saw its benchmark price increase by 9 per cent and Port Alberni saw a 2 per cent year-over-year increase.


Vancouver Island housing sales projections for 2021

Despite tough economic times for many, record-low mortgage rates, pent-up demand and a lack of supply indicate a market that will continue to see stable and/or rising prices. It is a seller’s market and buyers are eager. Now is a great time to list your home (and get a jump on the usual spring listing time).


“Consumer demand is high, and buyers are snapping up well-priced properties quickly once they hit the market,” says VIREB president Kevin Reid. “Multiple offers are commonplace.”


Nonetheless, he notes that overpriced homes tend to linger despite prevailing market conditions. “Connecting with a local realtor is especially crucial in a competitive housing market.”


Question about the current market? Reach out to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Q&As about the Registry set to launch November 30


BC’s Land Owner Transparency Act (LOTA) comes into effect on November 30 of this year. The first act of its kind in Canada, LOTA allows for the creation of a publicly searchable registry of information on individuals that hold interests in land – directly or indirectly – through corporations, trusts and partnerships.

The Act is part of the government’s plan to address concerns about housing affordability in BC. Introduced in the 2018 budget, it received royal assent in May of 2019 and comes into effect this year. The Act was implemented as part of an initiative to end the hidden ownership of land. It is expected that LOTA and its Registry (LOTR) will help to combat the use of these entities for money laundering, tax fraud and tax evasion purposes.


So how does this differ from Land Title Office records?

The Land Title Office records registered ownership of real property interests. The Land Owner Transparency Registry (LOTR) will record indirect ownership of interests in land (such as shareholdings in a corporation, rights/interests in a partnership and beneficial interests of trust beneficiaries). Essentially the Registry is a second database of land ownership records that will operate parallel to, but separate from, Land Title.


Who will operate this database and who can access the information?

The British Columbia Land Title and Survey Authority will oversee the database.

As of April 30, 2021, the public can search the Registry and get partial information about ownership interests in land. Birth dates and social insurance numbers will not be publicly accessible. Only those defined as a regulator, a taxing authority or a law enforcement entity will have access to complete information about reporting bodies and interest holders. To see who makes up those entities, visit landtransparency.ca.


How does this affect realtors and their clients?

Starting November 30, buyer clients must be made aware of the extra reporting requirements. The actual filing is something for which legal professionals will be responsible.

For transactions closing after November 30, realtors will need to:

  • Advise clients to speak to a legal professional about these requirements early on to ensure ample time for the necessary information to be gathered and filed. (If a buyer is a corporation, partnership or trust with shareholders outside of the country, this period could take as long as a month.)
  • Plan for closing periods that allow for legal professionals to fulfill the transparency declaration and determine if a transparency report must be filed.
  • Tell clients who require transparency reports to speak to their legal professionals to understand the timelines and what can be expected.
 

When does one need to file under LOTA?

Three main situations cause an obligation to file under LOTA: 1) the registration of a new interest in land at a land title office; 2) pre-existing interests in land; 3) changes in interest holdings in land. 


What are the penalties for noncompliance?

Not complying can have significant consequences. Improper or failed submission of appropriate documents means the LTO has the authority to refuse registration of an interest in land and financial penalties would incur.



To find out more about the new Act, including filing, searching and its enforcement, visit landtransparency.ca.

For more information on any aspect of selling and/or buying Comox Valley real estate, please feel free to contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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Atypical trends lead to a busy year despite uncertainties

Who could have imagined the changes we’ve all experienced in the past half year?


Around the globe, the coronavirus has infected hundreds of thousands of people; economies are faltering; our normal way of life has transformed.


Here in BC, we’re still all pulling together to keep flattening that curve – even though our initial excellent response has been tested of late. Four months into the restart, the economy is improving slowly, yet many sectors remain teetering on the brink of financial peril.  


So why is BC’s housing market strong and busy?


A recent report by British Columbia Real Estate Association’s (BCREA) chief economist, Brendon Ogmundson, cites several reasons for this unprecedented trend.


Not your standard recession…

“In a typical recession, housing sales decline as job losses and heightened uncertainty prompt potential buyers to pull back from the market. At the same time, the supply of listings accumulates as some households are forced to sell due to rising unemployment and falling incomes,” says Ogmundson. “The COVID-19 recession, however, has been anything but typical.”


He notes past recessions have seen provincial home sales post an initial steep decline before bouncing back with the wider economy over more than a year’s time. In contrast, the COVID-19 recession has seen “a remarkably swift rebound” to multi-year highs.


Part of this discrepancy could be due to low-wage sectors of the labour force feeling much of the impact, particularly the hospitality and trade industries. Past recessions in BC have seen relatively uniform job losses across all sectors.

Another unusual trend is a rise in household savings rates and disposable income during the pandemic. Vacationing, shopping and dining out have all taken a hit resulting in decreased spending and increased savings.


Quick response from government and financial institutions

It seems the 2008-09 recession taught policymakers to respond swiftly. Through the rapid implementation of government programs, such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the feds helped temper financial vulnerability. The Bank of Canada lowered its overnight rates almost, well, overnight. Mortgage rates are at record lows. These moves, in conjunction with pent-up demand due to a couple of months of isolation, saw impressive real estate figures as summer started.


Not enough supply for demand

Social distancing measures caused the total supply of active listings to decline, particularly at the start of the pandemic. Even though the sector adapted without delay by introducing virtual tours and other solutions to ensure safe transactions, supply did not accumulate as in past recessions. The six-month mortgage deferral program enacted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) also likely dampened potential supply.


The combination of an under-supplied market and pent-up demand has produced upward pressure on housing prices across the country.  


So, what’s the forecast?

Predicting the future often involves looking at the past. But in a world that hasn’t seen anything like this in modern times, there’s nothing to compare it against. That’s why Ogmundson shies away from any specific projections.

“Significant uncertainty remains, including the end or transition of key government supports and mortgage deferral programs, and a concerning rise in provincial COVID-19 cases,” says Ogmundson.


“However, the unexpectedly swift rebound in the market means that BC home sales will almost certainly finish 2020 higher than 2019. Moreover, the extended low-interest-rate environment combined with an expected strong recovery in the BC economy points to a continuation of strong demand in 2021.”



As always, please reach out should you have any questions about buying and selling homes and real estate in the Comox Valley. Feel free to contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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Private insurance providers have not followed suit


In a year that has seen unprecedented changes to the world’s economy and way of life, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced changes to eligibility rules for mortgage insurance. The government-backed federal housing agency announced its new rules on June 4, 2020, and they took effect on July 1.


As a provider of insurance that protects lenders if homeowners default on their mortgage, the move was designed to support housing market stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The rules apply to high-ratio mortgage qualification (when the buyer’s down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price) and will mostly affect first-time buyers and those looking to move to a larger home.


The changes (and how the new rules differ from the old)

# 1. Reduction in debt as a percentage of gross income

Buyers are limited to spending up to 35% of their gross income on housing, which includes mortgage, property tax, heating bill and half of condo fees, and can only borrow up to 42% of gross income once other loans, e.g., credit cards, car loans, etc., are included. 


The old rule allowed buyers with appropriate credit scores and reliable income to spend up to 39% of their gross income on housing and could borrow up to 44% of gross income.  


#2. Higher minimum credit score

At least one of the borrowers needs a “good” credit score of 680. The previous minimum score was 620. 


#3. No more borrowing for down payments

According to the CMHC, the borrower(s) must get the down payment “from their own resources.” This includes savings, property sale equity, a non-repayable financial gift from a relative, a government grant or funds borrowed from other liquid financial assets or against other real property.


Previously, borrowers could use unsecured personal loans and unsecured lines of credit and even credit cards.


What about other mortgage insurers?

Canada has two other (non-government) providers of mortgage default insurance: Genworth and Canada Guaranty. As private lenders, they don’t need to adopt these changes, and neither has indicated it plans to do so.


All three providers generally have similar products and qualification criteria and charge the same fees for the insurance provided.  But these new changes from CMHC means that for the first time in decades, borrowers will be able to qualify for substantially higher mortgages using Genworth and Canada Guaranty.


CMHC is typically the most popular because it’s backed by the federal government. However, CMHC-insured mortgages have been dropping in recent years. For instance, CMHC provided 100,000 insured mortgages in 2019 compared to double that number in 2017.


Why now and what’s next?

The changes came about because the CMHC is predicting a drop in average housing prices of between 9% and 18% over the next 12 months. Interestingly, in most of BC, while an initial drop in sales did occur, things have picked up of late and housing prices generally haven’t been greatly affected.


The CMHC also pays close attention to the Bank of Canada, which moved to lower target interest rates three times in March.


According to CMHC head Evan Siddall, the new rules “will protect homebuyers, reduce government and taxpayer risk and support the stability of housing markets while curtailing excessive demand and unsustainable house price growth.”



Regardless of when the pandemic ends, chances are the next few years will be ones of uncertainty for many Canadians. These changes are a reflection of the times.


For more information on any aspect of buying and selling homes and real estate in the Comox Valley, please feel free to contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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Real estate trends and statistics for Vancouver Island


While we entered the first part of 2020 in a generally stabilizing trend, the economic shutdown since the middle of March due to the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on housing sales throughout the province. Nonetheless, realtors, like so many other service providers, are adapting to support clients during these unprecedented times.


Following are some local and provincial statistics for April, adjustments that have been made in the real estate sector as well as projections for the future.

 

Where things stand on the Island and Comox Valley markets

The reality of the pandemic hit home in terms of housing sales in April throughout the province. As noted in the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) May release, Island sales of single-family homes dropped by 54 per cent compared to last year’s figures. Inventory has dropped significantly for houses and townhouses and active listings for apartments increased by more than 30 per cent.


In terms of benchmark pricing, April saw single-family homes drop three per cent for the Island average compared to last year to land at $523,700, which was actually marginally higher than in March. Interestingly, in the Comox Valley the benchmark price reached $521,300, which is up by two per cent compared to last year. Nanaimo and Parksville-Qualicum also saw 2 per cent increases from 2019.


How the real estate sector is adapting to COVID-19

In March, the provincial government designated real estate as an essential service. Since that time, all realtors have been working hard to ensure they follow health and safety directives laid out by the province’s health officer. Technology has allowed for adaptations to be made as we all work to flatten the curve through social distancing and respond to the ever-evolving “new normal.” Virtual open houses, electronic files and more allow us to continue assisting clients.


“Being declared an essential service recognizes that many British Columbians are currently involved in real estate transactions that began before the pandemic was declared or may need to be involved in one in the coming weeks and months,” says 2020 VIREB president Kevin Reid. “However, our priority is public health. Real estate transactions can continue as long as everyone involved is protected.”


For detailed information on how I, personally, am working with sellers and buyers to keep everyone healthy and safe, click on this link: https://leahreichelt.com/COVID-19.html.


Projections for the future

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) predicts the 2020 coronavirus-driven recession will be profound but that its duration may be shorter than past downturns. While social distancing has proven to make a huge difference in slowing the spread of the virus, it has resulted in declines in the real estate sector. However, as restrictions gradually ease and measures are lifted, BCREA anticipates low interest rates and pent-up demand will translate to a significant recovery in home sales and prices.


My assistant Jean and I sincerely hope that you and your families stay healthy and strong during these challenging times. Things will get better. By working together to support one another, we will get through this.


Please feel free to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page should you have any questions about the current situation or Comox Valley real estate in general. Take good care.

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Time to spruce up the house and yard


No matter what else is going on in the world, we can all feel a little bit better when winter turns to spring. Longer days, more sunshine, warmer weather, flowers starting to bloom and a sense of renewal all around us.


For many of us, it’s a time to get the home and yard organized after a few months of hibernation. And this year you’re likely spending more time around the house than usual. So why not make the most of staying close to home by tackling all those chores that may have been overlooked during the winter months.


Not only does giving your home and yard a good once over keep your hands and mind busy, but you’ll also feel a true sense of accomplishment as you cross tasks off your list.


The following are suggestions for tackling different areas of your house and yard. Don’t worry if you don’t get to them all or if it takes two months to finish them. Do what you can, when you can, and feel good about it. 



KITCHEN

  • Deep clean oven and racks; clean burners and knobs
  • Clean out and wipe down cupboards
  • Discard old spices and other staples that have been hanging around too long
  • Give trashcan a thorough cleansing
  • Run the dishwasher’s cleaning cycle
  • Disinfect in, under and on top of fridge 


BEDROOM

  • Vacuum/wash floors and wipe walls and corners of ceiling
  • Rotate mattress and wash all the bedding not just cases and covers
  • Dust lampshades (inside and outside)
  • Go through closet and switch out seasonal clothes
  • Thoroughly dust all surfaces, including closet


BATHROOM

  • Replace dirty shower curtain liner; wash decorative shower curtain
  • Empty and clean medicine cabinet; take any old medication back to pharmacy
  • Scrub down toothbrush holder, soap dish/dispensers
  • Soak bathmat in warm water and white vinegar and throw it in washing machine


LIVINGROOM/TV ROOM

  • Vacuum couches and fabric chairs with handheld upholstery attachment
  • Wash or vacuum curtains and dust blinds
  • Disinfect remote controls for TV, stereo system, etc.


BASEMENT/LAUNDRY ROOM

  • Clean dehumidifier (use manufacturer’s instructions)
  • Look for mildew on floors or walls, wipe with bleach
  • Run washing machine’s cleaning cycle, remove and clean lint plate
  • Change air filters


GENERAL

  • Inspect fire extinguishers and alarms; replace batteries
  • Dust or wipe down ceiling fans and light fixtures
  • Wash windows and screens
  • Wipe down baseboards, door and window frames, other woodwork
  • Disinfect light switches, phones and doorknobs
  • Wash or beat rugs
  • Throw pet toys in washing machine on gentle cycle
  • Wash cleaning supplies (broom, toilet brush, mop, and dusters)


OUTSIDE

  • Pick up branches, plant debris, litter, dog waste
  • Rake up twigs, pinecones, leaves
  • Inspect, clean and oil tools
  • Prune dead branches from shrubs and trees and trim others, but not too late in the season as to interfere with buds
  • Tidy any sheds or outbuildings
  • Start reviving the garden and plant early veggies



Approach one item at a time and before you know it, you’ll be done and dusted.


For other home ideas or information on any aspects of buying and selling real estate in the Comox Valley, please feel free to contact me, visit my website or check out my Facebook page.

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6 great tips to lower your home insurance costs


Owning a home is great but it can be expensive. Between the up-keep, mortgage rates, property taxes and so on, the money going out can all start to add up.


While some of those expenses are non-negotiable or unavoidable – if you need a new water heater, you need a new water heater – others, such as house insurance, do have a little wiggle room.


Following are some suggestions on lowering your yearly home insurance rates.


Be a wise consumer and shop around.

As with so many aspects of home ownership, you need to do your research and shop around. Yes, you may have been with the same people for 10 years, and they may even be giving you a small discount for that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do better. Talk to friends, neighbours or even your realtor to see who is out there. Plus, now comparing rates is super easy with online quote options.



Raise your deductible.

The deductible is the money you must pay out of pocket before your insurance company begins to pay a claim. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums; of course, it also means the more you’re paying if something happens to go wrong. But raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 can save you up to 25 percent on your rates. Different areas may have different or separate deductibles for specific issues, such as floods or earthquakes, so you’ll want to investigate that further.



Insure your car, while you’re at it.

When you insure your home and vehicles with one company, it means more business for them, which is why they often offer a 5 or 10 percent savings incentive for people who can bundle up a few different items.



Save up and pay once annually.

While a monthly payment plan is easier to deal with financially, there will be extra administrative charges typically. So start planning ahead, start saving up and do one lump-sum payment.



Improve your home’s security.

Some companies offer small discounts for smoke detectors, burglar alarms or even dead-bolt locks. A fancy sprinkler system or a fire/burglar alarm that rings at a monitoring station can result in even better savings with most insurers. But before you start spending money on them, check with your agent for qualifications and recommendations.



Weigh the costs before making a claim.

A claims-free discount on home insurance can be significant. Even though you may have a broken window or stolen bike, it could less expensive in the long run just to deal with it on your own rather than file a claim.



As always, to find out more about this or any other aspects of buying, selling and living in the Comox Valley, please contact me, visit my website or check out and like my Facebook page.

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Why and how to create space


Have you ever looked at your busy and full home and felt a bit overwhelmed? Does the jumble of your kids’ rooms or closets feel chaotic? Maybe it’s time to take a page from the minimalists and clear away that excess stuff from your house.


Of course, minimalism is about more than throwing things out and painting everything white. The minimalist approach is about creating the necessary space, both physically and mentally, to enable you to focus on what is truly important to you.


By minimalizing your home, or certain aspects of it such as a master bedroom, you can create a space that is organized, calm and contains only things that are relevant to you.


Doesn’t that sound peaceful? That’s because it is. Studies show that getting rid of excess “stuff,” helps us be more creative and gain a sense of freedom.


Admittedly, maybe it’s not realistic to change our philosophical approach to living, but here are a few things we can all do to make our homes feel less cluttered and confining.


Start at the beginning

The first step is to decide what areas of your home you want to focus on. Maybe you want to attack the biggest room or perhaps the messiest; it could be that you need to create a better sanctuary for yourself. Whatever the case, taking it one room at a time can feel less overwhelming. 


Make room for change by decluttering

It goes without saying that reducing clutter is the most important and most difficult part of the process. But once you have made that decision, it can be freeing. Focus on what you’ll get out of it and not what you are saying goodbye to. Listen to your emotions but also be practical. If you haven’t used an item for a year, do you really need it? Do you love it? Does it hold a special place in your heart or are you just concerned that you paid good money for it? Be strong and think about your clutter-free future.


Once you’ve decided what to retain, figure out where it will go. Keep counters and tables clean; keep cupboards organized and orderly. Frequently used items can stay out, such as certain utensils in the kitchen, but limit the numbers and space they take up to maintain tidiness.


Limit colours and let the light in

It doesn’t have to be all white – light blues, creams, beiges and greys can create that calm and understated environment. Then when you do add a flash of colour, such as a cushion, it really pops. If you’re adding those brighter shades, stick with one or two and limit the dosage. Also, keep the windows bare and let the light shine in. Heavy curtains are a drag, so if privacy is an issue, try to go with lighter sheer options or streamlined blinds.


Use empty spaces to create focal points

Creating a sense of space is a key aspect of minimalist décor, as the space interacts with the objects that remain and helps define a room’s look. Create balance within that new space by having a focal point – so maybe a coffee table with one unique, colourful item or an eye-catching piece of art over a couch.


Avoid too many patterns and focus on textures

A busy carpet near a floral couch by some patterned curtains is a lot to take in. A minimalist approach typically limits the number of patterns or opts to avoid them altogether. If you are using prints, make them a somewhat unobtrusive pattern or tone-on-tone. Essentially a print should be used as the accent piece for a room. The bigger the room and the larger the space, the more you can get away with. Even a patterned rug can work if the rest of the room is fairly muted.


Textures can add that spark that you might be seeking from a pattern. A fuzzy blanket and a velvet chair can certainly mix things up. In a bedroom, you might try an upholstered headboard or some textured wallpaper for a little bit of refreshing appeal.



One of the best parts about creating a more minimal space is that it’s easier to clean. Because you’ll be more intentional about what you are bringing into your streamlined space, you won’t be buying so much “stuff,” which will be easier on your wallet – and the planet! If you do buy something new, replace something else that’s already there by donating, selling or recycling it and keep the clutter at bay.



For other home ideas or more information on any part of buying, selling or moving in the Comox Valley, please contact me, check out my website or visit my Facebook page.

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Housing trends on Vancouver Island and beyond


As 2019 comes to a close, the year has seen a general stabilizing trend, both in the Comox Valley and throughout the province. On the whole, it has been another positive year, with steady sales and fewer multiple offer situations than in the previous couple years.


Let’s have a look at where things are at and where they may be going as we enter 2020.


The past year in the BC market

As noted in the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) December release, the British Columbia Real Estate Association reported that even though the start to 2019 was slow, MLS® home sales in the province embarked on a sustained upward climb as we headed into spring, with a return to trend after adjusting to changes in the market following the previous year’s federal mortgage rules and provincial tax policies amendments. In November 2019, the benchmark price of a single-family home across the board was $517,100, which is a 3 per cent increase from a year ago and down slightly from October.


The Island this past year

Regionally, the benchmark price for a single-family home in Campbell River region last month was $440,200; that’s an increase of five per cent over the month’s numbers in 2018. The Comox Valley was also up 5 per cent from November 2018, as the benchmark price reached $530,200. Duncan reported a benchmark of $479,500, up two per cent from 2018. Nanaimo rose by less than one per cent to $558,400 in November, while the Parksville-Qualicum region saw prices increase by around two per cent to a benchmark of $576,500. Port Alberni had the largest increase from this time last year, up 6 per cent to a benchmark of $329,000 in November. Overall, home sales and listing activities are at typical levels for the region.


General trends

Trend-wise, VIREB’s housing market is for the most part balanced and even inching toward a buyers’ market in a few of the zones. Island realtors report interest among buyers, but they’re price-savvy, in no rush and willing to walk away from deals. Some sellers and buyers are also choosing to wait until spring to see what the conditions bring.

“Accurate pricing continues to be the key to a quick sale,” says VIREB president Kaye Broens. “Overpriced properties tend to linger.”


Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling, in or out of the Comox Valley, Broens notes that working with an experienced local realtor is always the smartest move. “(They) have access to tools and market analytics that will help determine an optimal selling price for your home and find a property that fits your budget.”


My lovely assistant Jean and I hope that this coming year brings you all the joy and happiness you deserve – all the best for 2020!


To find out more about Comox Valley real estate, please feel free to contact me any time through my website or by visiting my Facebook page.

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Sumptuous, seasonal and so, so tasty


My lovely assistant Jean and I have a few more holiday recipes to share for your baking and eating pleasure this season. Make sure to check out last year’s recipes, too.

 

Christmas fruitcake

Certain to be a family favourite, this recipe makes four large loaf pans or about twelve small ones.


1 lb butter

1 lb brown sugar

10 eggs

2 lbs raisins

2 lbs currants

1 lb dates

1 lb mixed peel

½ lb cherries

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp mace

1 tsp mixed spices

pinch salt

1 tsp soda

5 cups flour

1 cup brandy


Wash raisins and currants, chop dates, cut up any of the too-big pieces of mixed peel. Mix together fruits, spices, flour, soda and salt – ensure it’s well mixed! Cream butter and sugar then add eggs one at a time. Add brandy & fruit mixture alternately to the creamed butter mixture.


Grease cake pans and bake in oven, not more than 300°F. Large cakes take two to three hours, medium takes one and a half, small pans take one hour. Leave cake in the pans until cool.


For storing, there are two different methods: 1.) Wrap with a brandy-soaked cheesecloth then wrap with foil; or, 2.) Wrap with saran wrap then foil, store in covered container or Ziploc freezer bag; then remove covering every 30 days, brush with brandy and rewrap.


Holiday snack mix

Careful, this one is as addictive as it is easy. It’s simple to buy gluten-free options for the pretzels and cereals, if that’s a consideration. And if you’re feeling really crazy, add in some popped corn halfway through the baking time.


1 cup of salted butter

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp garlic powder

A few drops of hot sauce (optional)

5 cups pretzel sticks

5 cups toasted oat cereal (Cheerios)

4 cups of corn or wheat square cereal (Shreddies)

4 cups of rice square cereal (Chex)

2 cups of nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds for a nut-free option


Preheat your oven to 275°F. In a very large roaster pan, combine the cereals, nuts and pretzels. In the microwave (or on the stove) melt butter and mix in spices and Worcestershire. Pour over dry ingredients and stir gently to mix thoroughly.


Bake for about an hour, stirring gently with a spoon every 15 minutes or so. The mix will be done when you can see that all the butter mixture has been absorbed and is dry. Spread on a large piece of foil to cool, then store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to three months.


Brie-cranberry bites

Quick and appetizing – with just three ingredients, these couldn’t be more straightforward.


1 package frozen-puff pastry, thawed

½ lb brie cheese

1 cup cranberry sauce


Preheat oven to 375°F; cut the puff pastry sheets into approximately 3-inch squares. Press each square into a muffin cavity. Cut brie into ¾-inch cubes and place a cube of cheese in the center of each puff-pastry square. Top the cheese with about 2 teaspoons of cranberry sauce. As an option, top with chopped pecans and a sprig of rosemary. Bake for about 10 minutes until pastry corners are toasted lightly brown; cool 5 minutes before serving.

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Leah Reichelt
Cell: 250-338-3888
Office: 250-339-2021
Toll Free: 1-888-829-7205
MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.