What does $500,000 get you in cities around the world?

There’s a lot to know when it comes to buying and selling a property.  So, we put the call to find out what you wanted to know.  Real Estate expert Sandra Rinomato answers your questions. 

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 Ever wonder what $500,000 gets you in Paris or London? Sandra shows us what a half of a million dollars gets you in cities around the world. You may be surprised…

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Ask Sandra: Your Real Estate Questions Answered

There’s a lot to know when it comes to buying and selling a property.  So, we put the call to find out what you wanted to know.  Real Estate expert Sandra Rinomato answers your questions. 


Q: If I sell my 100-year-old house, am I responsible for hidden defects the buyer may uncover?

A: A home owner is required to disclose all latent and patent deficiencies. If you know of an issue you are advised to disclose it to a potential buyer. Chances are anyone interested in buying a 100-year-old home will expect a few issues anyway and won’t  be expecting modern technology. Most houses have a few issues and as long as it is not beyond what the buyer is willing or able to fix you can usually still get a decent deal. Most houses with major problems still manage to sell.

Q: I live on a street in a desirable part of town. All of the homes, except for one, are well maintained. The house is really unsightly. The porch roof is falling down and the windows are broken and covered with cardboard. We share a driveway… so it’s impossible to ignore the property. If we were to put our house on the market, would the neighbour’s home bring down the selling price of our house?

A: An unsightly property next door may deter some buyers, it’s true, but since the rest of the street seems to show pride of ownership you should be OK. If it is a demand area, most buyers may be so eager to get into the neighbourhood that they will overlook the neighbouring property. They will think that the value can only go up when the neighbour sells to a contractor! In cases where a semi-detached is unkempt you may want to offer to repair some of the cosmetic issues that are shared, like a wall separating the two front porches. Just be sure to get approval in writing before you do anything.

Keep in mind, if it looks like illegal things are going on in there, it could drive people away due to safety concerns for their family.

Q: We have a two bedroom house and we will be renovating our bathroom. Should we keep our only bathtub for resale purposes?  I wanted to replace the tub with a shower.

In most cases I would advise you to keep the tub, because a two-bedroom home is appropriate for a family and people with small children will want a tub. Is your home in an area where single people live? Then it may be fine to do a nice seamless glass shower that is all the rage. I know that having the tub and shower combination can be a pain to clean especially if you only use the shower and never use the tub, and many people prefer cleaning just a shower. There is a time and formula for renovating for profit. If you plan on staying in the home for a long while then go ahead and make the home comfortable for yourself!

Q: Should I sell my house now, or would I get more money if I waited until spring?

A: Real estate follows the principals of supply and demand, so ideally you want to sell when demand is high. In many markets spring is when more homes sell per month and for the most money. It’s also the time of year when we see the highest number of listings, which means there is more competition out there and more choice for buyers. Is that the best time for you to list your home? I have seen homes sell for lots of money during the holidays, during August and even in frosty February. People buy and sell real estate for a many reasons: job transfer, blending families, divorce, death and so on and those things can a happen at any time. Properties sell every day of the year so don’t be worried about not finding a buyer just because it’s not April!

Q: On average, how many hours of work would most realtors spend on selling a home?

A: One of the biggest mistakes a good realtor makes is to forgetting to tell a seller just how hard we are working for them! Just like a pilot who has a checklist he uses each time he flies, a smart realtor does the same every time he lists a home for sale. I have a laundry list of things I need to do long before the home ever hits the market. The list includes things that protect the seller legally, marketing activities, preparing the home for sale, spreading the word about the listing, counselling the seller, and so much more. Then there is another long list of things to do while the home is on the market.  A busy realtor does not track the number of hours we spend selling a property and we can’t really estimate how many hours we spend on average, but if you are ever concerned and want to know what actions your realtor is taking to sell your home, just ask them. You should know exactly how they work and how they plan to sell your home before you sign the listing.

How Much Is Your Home Worth?


People always want to know what their home is worth, and for good reason. For most people, their home is their biggest asset, so of course they want to know its value! Let’s take a look at what I suggest are good indicators of value and consider how they can help you determine how much your own home is worth.

1. Location: Well, everyone has heard that location is the primary factor in value, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you to see it as my #1. A high demand area is key. It’s important to know that your home could be located in a very desirable neighbourhood, but it might actually be situated in a poor location within that area.  The specific location might be too close to an undesirable element such as train tracks, hydro towers, or a noisy public transportation stop.  Your home won’t reflect the same value as a neighbourhood home that is further away from the stigma.

When it comes to supply…there are similar findings.  In a good neighbourhood, when supply is low the desire doesn’t disappear, it might actually grow!  People always want what they can’t have. On the other hand, too many properties available at the same time in a neighbourhood creates more choice for buyers which could lessen the market value of your home.  In a nutshell, High Demand + Low Supply = Higher Value

2. Condition: The overall condition of your home affects value. Are the mechanics older? Is there newer technology that homeowners prefer? I’m talking about things like wiring such as aluminum or knob and tube, and high efficiency furnaces vs older inefficient systems. Is your property kept up? Has everyone else updated and you haven’t? If all of the houses in the neighbourhood have a new roof and yours is at the end of its life then unfortunately your roof will affect your home’s value.  And not in a positive way!  However, if only a small percentage of your neighbourhood’s homes have a new roof, then your older roof won’t make that much of a difference overall.

3. Size: Generally speaking, price per square foot can help you evaluate your property. This is especially true regarding condominium apartments.  It can also hold true for houses, but with houses other size factors…size of the lot, size of the rooms…could come into play as well.  Some houses are the same in size but differ in layout. One layout may be more desirable than another, when you take into consideration the flow or functionality.  Let’s say there are two homes with the same square footage: one home features three bedrooms while the other features four bedrooms. Guess what—neither home is more/less valuable than the other.  Some people may think a four bedroom would sell for more money, but that’s not the case.  Since both homes offer the same square footage, the three-bedroom home may feature reasonably sized, comfortable rooms whereas the home with four bedrooms has jammed those four rooms into the same amount of space. You could end up with two very small bedrooms that are not really functional. Personally, I would buy the three bedroom home. But then again, I don’t have five kids!

Same thing with bathrooms. An extra bathroom may not add a lot of value, necessarily. If you live within an area that usually has only one bathroom upstairs, say an older home, but you were able to install an ensuite in the master bedroom, you will recoup more than the cost of construction!  However, if you already have multiple bathrooms in a newer subdivision and you add another one in the unfinished basement…it might not make much of a difference. So, two baths instead of one would be great, whereas five baths instead of four –not so much. Got it?

4. Presentation: How does your home show to potential buyers?  This point is a contributing factor regarding the worth of your home because the answer lies in a buyer’s perception.  For example: a dirty home will not be as valuable as a clean home. To a buyer, a dirty home seems neglected and represents an investment of money and time once it becomes theirs.   Let’s be honest here, a home with noticeable odours will not be as enticing as a fresh smelling home. A home that reflects pride of ownership can make all the difference. So, stop smoking in the house and get out the rubber gloves!

5. Exposure: If you’re selling, this is very important.  I’m not talking about leaving the curtains open in the bedroom! I’m talking about target marketing and highlighting the right features. The way you market the home for sale will have an effect on the selling price at the end of the day. You want to expose the property to every single buyer out there, for starters. Then you want to make sure you highlight the features that those buyers are looking for. Then you have to entice buyers with the proper photography and descriptions.

As you may have gathered, there isn’t an easy checklist to determine the value of real estate. There is so much to consider and each property or situation is unique.  It’s a lot easier for your realtor, who does this every day, to determine the value of your property than it would be for you to try and muddle your way through it, so draw on their expertise and sit back and enjoy the results!

How A Designer Can Help You Improve The Look Of Your Home

sandra rinomato


I see many homes in my day to day work life, and although many are large, not many captivate the attention the way a home that has been professionally decorated can. Any size home can deliver WOW with the help of a professional designer or decorator. A designer can easily create an ambience that speaks to us and makes us feel comfy and at peace. If you have the budget to buy all new furniture and accessory pieces, a professional designer will bring their knowledge and expertise to the table to benefit your selection and decision-making process in a positive way to reflect your lifestyle.92 Stallions Ct King City ON-small-030-Foyer-666x444-72dpi

But, let’s be real, not many of us have that kind of budget. This property is an estate home that’s priced out of reach for many people, but it has many design elements that any home can mimic.  Among those, the designer made almost 8,000 square feet feel cozy, can you believe it? He did it by using a consistent theme throughout.  The designer had the luxury of free rein with the house, and taking it from scratch he went to town and created this stunning show home.  Because the design and execution were all done at same time, the designer was able to take the same black, white and gold theme and artistically run it through the entire house.  Even with huge, expansive rooms the designer made the decor smartly flow, he utilized space in a beneficial way and created intimacy and warmth. Overall it is elegant and the finishes are high-end, but it’s the coziness that makes it practical for today’s family. And although it might not seem so, he had a budget and he stuck to it!  Unfortunately many homes that are done by non-professionals do not reflect the abundance of style and good taste that’s on display here.  Keep in mind that just because a home is big it doesn’t mean it’s beautiful.  Unfortunately many people choose to decorate one room at a time, and with that approach there is no cohesiveness, no unity.  The end result looks piecemeal.  Remember those choppy rooms from the 70’s with the hallway carpet one colour and each room another colour? There was no flow, whereas this estate home reflects a flow and uniformity for a smooth transition from room to room. It actually feels better, although you may not understand why it does.92 Stallions Ct King City ON-small-029-230307-334x500-72dpi

However, I realize not everyone has this type of house or the budget for decorating an estate home. I’ve learned from my own experience that hiring a professional designer is beneficial for any pocketbook.  When hiring a designer he or she will ask you the intention for your space and to describe your basic style.  They interpret your answers with their knowledge and expertise to show you how to solve your style dilemmas, space issues and how to achieve a polished, finished look.  I have noticed many people have started on their own however it feels incomplete, or it’s missing that je ne sais quoi.  A professional will bring you something that you wouldn’t have given a second thought on the store shelf, but they know how it works in combination with what you have and BAM, it’s perfect!   They will bring you a storyboard to show you how colors and textures can offset or complement each other. Visiting the home they will gauge the lighting and suggest paint colours that complement the tones present in your existing furnishings or finishes.  A designer will provide you with an amazing variety of color combinations that you would have overlooked.  But with their method of presentation, now those colours speak to you.

If nothing else you can hire a designer for a two hour consultation to help you achieve your desires and plans.  But keep in mind that decorating is not staging!  Staging is done quickly with a property’s sale in mind, whereas decorating is done with passion and lifestyle in mind.  Although you’ve “finished” (I say that tongue in cheek, as decorating is fluid, always changing, in my opinion) you could still find a new, perfect piece that grabs your attention several months or years later.  So decorating cannot all happen in a one week period like staging does.  You can drastically change, or simply refresh the feel of your room with different accessories, colors and textures as they come in to fashion.  A designer may just suggest an adjustment to your furniture into a new seating arrangement, or take the piece from the spare bedroom and use it smartly in the family room.  Sometimes it just takes some accent pillows and a throw to make the entire room appear newer and more stylish.

So what do you do if you have a home that needs a 92 Stallions Ct King City ON-small-017-Dining Room-666x444-72dpilot of work and you want to spend a little to give it a facelift? Don’t focus on just one room.  Instead focus on the lighting, the floors, the doors, the walls and the halls throughout the home.  If you have a 50 – 60 year old bungalow like I do, updating in those areas will give you the biggest bang for your buck. I removed the rounded old trim replacing it with something more modern, I added custom doors and new hardware, I added crown moulding and painted contemporary colors on walls and replaced the lighting. What a difference!  So don’t give yourself just a brand new living room and leave the rest of your home stuck in another era.  Let your professional designer help you select a good trim that works for you and present artistic ideas for what can be done to the doors.  They’ll advise on unique paint color schemes…there are over one hundred shades of white alone.  And they’ll show you samples of lighting that will blow your mind.  It is these important personal details where a designer’s eye will be money well spent.  And if you’re considering renovations like removing walls…you would be a fool to do it without a designer. Their consultation is worth every penny.

To view more of the stunning home featured in this post, please visit www.92Stallions.com 

Coats for Kids – Winter Coat Drive!

De-clutter your closet this season for a great cause! We are accepting donations of new or gently used children’s winter coats throughout the month of October. Your donations will be distributed to shelters across Toronto to help kids in need!

Coats for Kids

How to Identify Areas that are Up and Coming

sandra rinomato



1. Follow the artists. Many artists look for affordable housing and inspiring surroundings.  We’ve seen this in many cities now, they’ll go into ‘less-desirable’ neighbourhoods and slowly the area becomes beautified.  You’ll see trendy coffee shops and art galleries opening and that will give people new reasons to visit that part of town. Then come the young people. They’ll move in because they can’t get into the market anywhere else. Then families appear and voila, the neighbourhood just up and came!

Toronto's Queen West

Toronto’s Queen West

2. Look for nice neighbours and proximity to hip neighbourhoods. If there is a pocket of desirable neighbourhoods and a ‘black sheep’ neighbourhood nearby, chances are those established neighbourhoods will expand into that neighbourhood and push property values up.

3.  Look for development. If you build it, they will come. If the government or an investment company thinks it’s worth the risk to invest in a new area it means 1). They are probably right and 2). They will do everything to make that neighbourhood successful to protect their investment. This might also mean a shift in by-laws and zoning in these areas, making development legal. Think previous industrial buildings and warehouse converting to lofts or government offices. On a smaller scale, if every other house on the street is being renovated, you know the area is hot and people have an interest in protecting its future as well.

Toronto's Canary District makes way for Pan Am games and new condo development

Toronto’s Canary  District makes way for 2015  Pan Am games and new condo development

5. Look for strong BIA. These groups want a neighbourhood to succeed and they work with businesses to encourage growth in the neighbourhood.  This means a lot of announcements, renovating and flipping new businesses within a short time frame.

6.  And of course, talk to an expert/relator, because they have the down-low on what’s coming up!

7.  An area that is experiencing bigger increases in values than they have historically or in the past (May be caused by #3).  We have seen this in cities across the country.

Pet Adoption Day for the Etobicoke Humane Society

Please come out and support our Pet Adoption Day for the volunteer-run Etobicoke Humane Society



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