When to Think Twice and Walk Away

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Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em: when to think twice and walk away when shopping for a home.

Urban vs. Suburban Living: What are the pros and cons?

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Sandra weighs the pros and cons of living in the city vs. living in the suburbs.

Buying and Selling Your Home in Winter: Should You Wait?

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Some people think that selling your house in the winter is a bad idea, I mean, who wants to move in winter?! Well, real estate never sleeps, or hibernates. There are so many reasons why people sell or buy real estate and those reasons are every day occurrences, like births, deaths, divorces, new jobs, immigration and so on.
There may even be an advantage to selling in the winter. Typically the inventory levels drop drastically which means less competition for sellers. There are still decent numbers of buyers out there, so this could work to your benefit.


Be sure to shovel as soon as the snow falls. You never know when a showing will be booked, so always be prepared. Hire a service if that is more practical, as daytime snow fall could present an issue for you if you’re away at work.

Of course you will have to shovel the drive and the main walkway to the front door, but also shovel the side walk and the walkway to the back yard, and make sure the gate is unlocked and unblocked. People will want to go out there to see the size of the yard, so remember to clear snow from the patio to make sure they can see it. You might even have some patio furniture out there if it can withstand the winter.

Try to use some evergreen branches, birch, twigs and other natural decorative items in urns at the front and even the back of your house to add a little extra “warmth”.

Always remember to use a de-icing agent for safety. You don’t want anyone to slip and fall.

I love dogs!– but yellow snow is a big turn off for buyers, so train Cocoa to go next door.

Make certain the outdoor lighting comes on extra early, not only to attract the drive-by but also to help with accessibility. There’s nothing worse than a dark lockbox to hinder your showing! If you can add in a light at the side and rear yard to make the journey to the back yard more practical, you’ll score points with buyers and realtors!

Following these tips you will ensure that you impress buyers favourably. You are giving them the impression that you take excellent care of the property, which will translate into dollars for you. A home that appears to be loved is far more inviting that one that is neglected!

Forget about saving a few bucks on your heating bill! Make sure the programmable thermostat is always the warm setting, so your buyers are welcomed to a nice comfy home. That first impression is so important!  Consider adding several lamps with timers that will come on early. Many living rooms and bedrooms are dark so add in a few lamps in each room to ensure that the showing is a cheery one. Open those drapes and let the sunshine in but make sure your windows are clean! On a mild day, give them a wash.

Get fresh mats and rugs and wash them often. You don’t want the extra household traffic to create a smelly, grimy environment. Offer a rubber mat for winter boots, so the snow doesn’t melt leaving puddles and salt stains. Be prepared to wash the front foyer often!

Bring in some blooming winter plants, like Amaryllis, or Orchids to liven the place up. Using flameless candles, especially the ones that go on automatically at dusk, add to the ambience as well as the fireplace. Always be safe though, and use with caution. I love it when the gas fireplace is on and I hear, “oh that really kicks off some heat, doesn’t it?!”. Let the fireplace act as it’s own salesperson.

Somewhere very visible, say the dining room table, have some photos of the yard during the other seasons of the year, showing your garden in bloom, the grass and trees, or pool during summer.  If there are beautiful parks or other features nearby, you can even have a photo of that. This may take some planning and it’s always a good idea to photograph your property for your self anyway. Use photos without people or pets, those are best. You want to sell the property, not distract the buyer!

Micro-condos: What they are and who is buying them

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Micro-condos are very small condo units ranging in size from 220-400 sq. ft., but typically we see them range between 250-350 sq. ft. These units are expertly designed to maximize space so you still have all of the creature comforts. Fold away furniture is standard issue. A bed will fold up to make room for a kitchen table. Storage space is created in every nook and cranny and is collapsible or can be hidden. Every inch is used to its maximum potential. They are really quite innovative!

micro condo 1

Micro-condos are ideal for investors looking to rent them out as they typically rent for more money per sq. ft. than larger units. Students, single professionals, first-time buyers and pied-a-terre seekers are interested in such units. People are willing to make the trade for less personal space in favour of more communal space. It’s not odd to see people using a neighbourhood coffee shop as a sort of living space. Individuals buying these units typically want to live in the downtown core without paying downtown prices. Big cities, where space is at a premium and real estate is very costly are seeing these types of developments because they are affordable, albeit small solutions. They are minimalist spaces designed for a particular type of lifestyle.

Micro-housing has been around for a long time in Asia, specifically Japan. Historically, families would live in small units of around 100 sq feet that had large communal areas. It wasn’t until after WW2 that home sizes started to grow. Micro-condos are also popular in Europe – Paris, Barcelona, Rome and London.

We are starting to see this trend move to Canada. British Columbia has several micro developments both for sale and for rent. They are situated in the downtown core of B.C.’s major cities – Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey.

Builders recognize that transit is integral to these developments, and since living space is sparse dwellers will spend more time in the neighborhood. Walkability is another key issue. This trend will continue to expand and will be interesting to watch over the coming years. It certainly won’t be in every Canadian city, but the major cities like Toronto are already seeing an uptick in popularity.

micro condo 2

(a) Location, location, location!
(b) These units are more affordable, allowing people to live in some of the cities hottest neighborhoods without paying exorbitant prices.
(c) Modern, uniquely designed spaces and the reduction of your carbon footprint. Since you can’t buy furniture for space you don’t have, it forces you to be frugal.

(a) One or two things out of place can make your space look cramped, thereby forcing you to tidy up. Small spaces can feel too confining for some.
(b) It is very difficult to secure financing on micro-units. Most banks and lenders have minimum sq. ft. requirements. Although it is not impossible to mortgage a micro-condo this is due diligence you should perform before you start looking.
(c) Keep in mind that the resale market for these units has yet to be proven.
The average size of condo units has been decreasing for years. A 600 sq. ft. condo is very typical, if not the norm in Toronto. Micro-units are the next step in this trend. Canadians are migrating to city centres, choosing to live where they work and play, thus avoiding a long commute. Younger generations (i.e. Gen Y) are ditching cars for public transit and high walkability scores.

Factors That Can Devalue Your Home

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Black cat, Rosie, walking profile


A superstition is a widely held belief associated with supposedly supernatural influences thought to bring good or bad luck.  Since such beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, let’s consider how a few of them can significantly impact a property’s value.

Numerology: The number four is considered to be unlucky in some East Asian cultures.  For example, in Chinese culture, the number four sounds like word for death. Whereas, the number eight signifies wealth and prosperity. Another number commonly embraced is the number three, as it signifies life or new beginnings.  The number 13 seems to get a bad rap, such is life. You will frequently find many buildings do not name the actual 13th floor.  Instead, the building magically leaps from floor 12 to 14 (In some specific areas this also applies to a building’s 4th floor.)  So it might be smart to avoid the dreaded number 13 when choosing a closing date as well.

These various beliefs can net you more than two-percent — or less than two-percent — in geographic areas with a high concentration of superstitious buyers.  So, by using the average price of a Toronto home, you can gain or lose over $20,000 because of numerology.

Another superstition or religious belief — burying a small statue of St. Joseph — is believed to facilitate a quicker sale for a property.  And how a strong belief in Astrology can impact a real estate transaction cannot be underestimated either.  One such example occurred when I had to wait a month or more for a Mercury in Retrograde cycle to pass before a seller would sign paperwork to accept a deal.


Location: A cemetery could seem like spooky fun to a kid, but it could have an ominous meaning altogether different for a potential homebuyer.  Since cemeteries often conjure up a frightening sense of negative energy, certain buyers would deem nearby homes as those best to avoid.  Churches, and the funeral services associated with them, might also project a similarly negative connotation.

Properties situated too close to a large school or on a well-traveled public bus route can also be turn-offs.  Immense utility towers servicing power lines, radio frequencies, cell phones, etc could be seen as neighbourhood deterrents.  Though local plazas are handy for a quick shopping run being too close to a plaza’s busy parking lot, or coping with a store’s open 24 hour policy, or dealing with a popular restaurant or bar’s unwelcome loud noise could make a buyer rethink their idea of convenience.  Often the smells from the restaurant and it’s garbage bins can cause annoyance.


Pros and Cons: The overall size and condition of a particular home when compared to the city’s average, or even when compared to the immediate area’s competition, will have an effect on price.  Some buyers mistakenly avoid corner lots because they think the property taxes are higher, but in fact, the shorten lot line is used to assess.  And similar to the negative vibe of a cemetery, finding out an actual murder had previously occurred in a home could be a creepy obstacle to many buyers.  Currently, Quebec is the only province with a murder disclosure law. It’s always best practice to disclose such a happening, but it’s good to perform your own due diligence.  And include other traumatic events and/or paranormal activity as well, because not every ghost is named Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Lastly, a home formerly used as a Grow-op could see its price significantly reduced to attract a new buyer.


Well, what does this all mean…as a buyer should you avoid these types of homes?  And what about selling such homes associated with these stigmas?  Many people are perfectly okay with the number 666 on their front door.  Others who accept it at the time of purchase could decide to petition the city later on to have that notorious number changed.  Sometimes they’re successful…and sometimes it’s a no go, since not every superstition can be accommodated.

Pretty much any house will sell at the right price.  But just be aware if you score a good deal because of a stigma being attached to a property, you will also sell for less down the road and could possibly even face trouble selling, especially in a soft market.

If there is something you should disclose, please disclose it instead of costing yourself and the buyer unnecessary pain and suffering.  Nobody wants a possible legal battle in their future.

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. 

 Click Here for Video 

 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…

Click the video link above for more!

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.


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