Landscaping Adds 15% Equity to Your Investment!

 Re/Max Ontario is promoting a contest to win a FREE Landscape Makeover!

Win up to $10,000 in free Garden Products and Landscaping Services!

Win up to $10,000 in free Garden Products and Landscaping Services!

 I was recently reading an article on Landscaping through Landscape Ontario and was excited to learn that landscaping adds 15% more value to any property!   They cited “landscaping can bring a recovery value of 100 to 200 per cent at selling time”.  Landscaping is considered the best return on investment when it comes to renovating your home! 

As a Realtor I see the value in landscaping.  Often my clients will drive by a property, and without that “wow” curb appeal, they will let first impressions allow them to pass up a fabulous home without going inside to see its upgrades, charm and character.

A University of Florida study concluded that a quality landscape project provides:

  • Blocks unpleasant views
  • Lower noise levels
  • Reduces crime
  • Lowers heating and cooling costs
  • Improves home appearance
  • Optimizes the use of land and outdoor space
  • Reduces chemical usage on the property
  • Provides an attractive setting for garden ornamentation and statuaryLandscaping

Buyers of new home construction often miss the mature neighbourhoods with large trees, birds singing and squirrels playing until their own newly developed neighbourhood starts to blossom.  One of the first things every buyer in a new development should invest in, is their landscaping and tree planting.  Many industry leaders recommend a rule-of-thumb of investing 10% of the value of your new home into professional landscaping.

How many times have we spent countless mornings pulling weeds and dead-heading flowers, without realizing we are “pruning” our investment?  It puts back-breaking gardening into perspective!  I will certainly remind my husband of this fact, as he digs yet another hole for “just one more plant”!


Women Buying 20% of All Real Estate!

ImageAccording to a report by the US National Realtors Association, cited in the Globe and Mail, 20% of homebuyers in North America are single women. Traditionally, women had waited until after getting married to get involved with homeownership, but as the numbers suggest, that trend has changed significantly.

Evidence is proven in my own market place here in Kitchener Waterloo, where I am working more and more with single ladies looking to buy not only a home, but also investigating the process for investing. 

25 years ago, it never would have dawned on me, as a single woman, to buy a home.  I was quite happy to spend my money on rent, waiting for my “prince charming” to come along and save me, providing me with a home and a family.  Those were different times, and I wish I would have known better!

The article also cited Single women aren’t merely wading into the market with a studio condo, either. They are buying investment properties and houses that need renovation.”

7 years ago I found myself, once again, being a single woman.    I was freshly divorced with a little bit of “seed money” and wanted to put it some place safe.   As a Realtor, I knew real estate and that is where I wanted to invest.  I bought my first investment property and learned the exciting process of becoming a landlord!

 At the same time, I also bought a little fixer-upper for myself and my three children.  I renovated it over the course of 8 months, and sold it for a small, but tidy profit.   I reinvested the equity from the first, and the profit from the fixer-upper into two more properties.

Having taken this giant leap, I have given myself financial security, personal independence and a retirement fund to money stepslook forward to.  I actually have been able to make my money work hard for me, and I am looking forward to expanding my portfolio!

 Although women are still a minority in the real estate investing game, they are beginning to grow in numbers. As a woman in real estate, this is a trend that I am happy to see!

Rich is a State of Mind

Rich is a state of mindOne of my all-time favourite books isRICH is a State of Mind by Financial speaker
Robert Gignac, and Waterloo’s own financial planner Michael J. Townshend.  It’s written as a story about a slightly dysfunctional Canadian family, laced with investment truths, financial planning principles, goal setting and wealth strategies for Canadians, and done with clarity! Understanding finances can be, well…..boring, not to mention overwhelming.  It’s an easy read, and made so much sense to me that I was able to follow along and understand the simple advice they were trying to articulate to me.

This was one of the questions in the story that was there to make us ponder a short time.  You’ll enjoy this book!

What is your definition of rich?  Freedom

“When I was taking pictures in Vietnam in the early 70’s I met a peasant farmer who was raising a family of five in a one room, tin-sided hut, earning his living on a rice-paddy, making what might have been the equivalent of $100 a year. He considered himself to be wealthy; his sole concern was for the education of his children because he wanted more for them than he could provide.  He explained to me how he felt wealthy.  For him, being rich was the freedom to live the kind of life that was meaningful for him, to be surrounded by family and friends, not to worry about money and what it could or couldn’t buy.  I could hardly believe my ears, this wisdom was coming from someone living in a region where bombs dropped in from the sky on a daily basis. He seemed amused by my western   notion of money, and the fear and    anxiety it created.  I remember his last words to me about the subject— “it doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you’re worried about it, you aren’t rich.  That’s why I think that being rich equates to freedom.”
freedomRobert wrote an article called “Selecting a Financial Coach” that I wanted to share with you. It’s a guide to helping you on your own personal search for the perfect financial planner for you and your family!

Will an RESP pay for my Child’s College Education?

Will an RESP pay for my Child’s College Education?  Not at all!


It’s recently been determined that the cost of a 4 year post secondary degree, away from
u of w home, will be well over $100,000 in 15 years. An RESP could cover less than half of that cost. How can this be?

While the RESP is billed as “a clear choice for families wishing to save for their children’s future education costs,” the reality is that the lifetime contribution is maxed out at $50,000, – hardly enough to grow to a six figure sum by the time little Adam goes to university.

What is the alternative? Invest in real estate, and benefit from leverage and having someone else paying off the loan.

Imagine you did this: Take $27,000 (from savings, home equity, stocks etc), and use that as a down payment on a real estate investment property. In this case, we’ll purchase a 2-bedroom 1-bath condominium in Kitchener for $135,000.

Since you have a $27,000 downpayment, you now need a mortgage for $108,000. We’re going to use a 20 year amortization period, and we’re going to make payments on the mortgage every week –   making the effective amortization 18 years. At a 5.25% interest rate, the weekly accelerated payments would be $181.00 every week, or $784 per month. Condo fees are $215/month, and municipal tax are about $120/month.

Assuming the unit is rented for $950 a month + hydro, there is a negative month to month cash flow of about $170 a month. When you compare this $2025.00 a year against the average amount of $4,000/year you would be contributing to an RESP, it is a much smaller figure. In fact…

Your annual contribution is almost 50% less than it would be under a traditional RESP plan

If the condominium does not appreciate one penny between now and 18  years from now – which is when you’ll need the money for little Adam’s college tuition – it will be completely paid off and worth $135,000. Great return on your investment!

That will cover most of the cost of tuition, and it’s more than double*  what the value of the RESP will be.

The condominium market consistently appreciates, anywhere from 3%-8% per year.  If it continues to appreciate, even at 4% a year, your Real Estate Investment will be worth well over $150,000.

The smart choice is to buy an asset with borrowed money, and have someone else pay off most of the loan. That’s the beautiful opportunity real estate offers you.”

Intrigued?  Call me for a free consultation! I will look at your needs – retirement,    education, a  second home – and develop a plan to get you where you need to be.

*A note of caution:  Government Grants are available to families who contribute to RESP’s, as much as $7,200.  Remember: the money in the RESP is strictly for post-secondary education. It can be used in Canada or abroad at a qualifying institution. However, if your child decides to not pursue university, college or an equivalent, you may need to return the grant money and pay high taxes on the earnings.

Saving that Elusive Downpayment!

17 Tips for Saving that Elusive Downpayment!

“If you show money the respect it deserves today, and carry it through in all your actions, then one day, when you can no longer take care of it, your money will take care of you. Respecting your relationship with money, you see, is the key not only to your security and independence, but to your happiness as well.”
suze orman

Suze Orman, Women & Money

Respecting your money means taking care of it properly. To quote Suze Orman: “Your money is governed by how you treat it: it’s that simple. It thrives when you are being responsible, respectful, and doing honorable things with it.” Using a demonstration on Oprah, Suze said some things that made so much sense.  “If you respect money, you put it in your wallet and keep it organized.”  I started observing people with money and every single one of them puts their money in their wallet!  Those without, always dig around in their pockets trying to find where they put it.   How many times have I just shoved it in my pocket or thrown it on the kitchen table?!  I immediately went out and bought a wallet and have religiously used it correctly ever since! Suze also said “money is attracted to those who respect it and are open to receiving it.”  I look every day to find a penny on the ground as a simple show of respect to my money.  The other day I found a dime!

I am including in this post, 17 ways to “find” money and save for that downpayment you need to buy your first home!piggy

1.  Take on a second job to use strictly for savings.

2.  Reduce your cable expenses and cut back on the huge portfolio of channels.

3.  Consider ending the household phone.  Many people are doing this now as they more   often use their cell phone.

4.  Put yourself on a strict grocery budget and shop with a list.  Knowing what you need   will help avoid those impulse buys.

5.  Cook at home and avoid eating in restaurants.

6.  Consider paying cash for that second car.  It won’t be sexy but it’ll save you money      and serve it’s purpose!

7.  Reduce hydro/heat costs…turn the furnace down a few notches.  Comfy rather than     cozy!

8.  Money TreeSave your tax refunds, raises and bonuses.

9.  Learn to live on 10% less income, and save the difference.  It takes sacrifice but it’s so worth it!

10.  Shop around for auto insurance and make sure you are getting the best price.  If you  opt for the higher deductible, your annual premiums go down.

11.  Take a lunch to work (leftovers from the night before) and bring your own thermos    of coffee.  You’ll save $50-$100 a week just doing this!

12.  Sell unused items around the home on Kijiji for quick cash.

13.  Use only paper money for purchases and save the leftover change.

14.  Avoid paying ATM fees.  If you withdraw cash from your own bank, it’s usually        free.

15.  Renegotiate the interest rates on your current credit cards.

16.  Review your chequing and savings accounts, finding accounts that have no monthly   bank fees.

17.  Take in a boarder.  If you have the extra bedroom, it can now work for you and earn you cash every month!

bonusLive like you already own your house.  Figure out how much it would cost to pay for the mortgage, property taxes, utilities and practice for 6 months.  If you can do this, you can afford to work towards the dream!  Save that surplus money in the bank until the day you own, and you will be very prepared!

Improve your Credit Score AND Keep Money in your Jeans!

Often in my travels I run across some of the most interesting people.  I am very passionate about teaching/learning about personal credit scores, and knowing about good money management tips.  I’d like to share a few tips I have picked up along the way from just every day people who “get it”!

money in jeans

  1. Don’t go over the credit limit on your credit card.  Try to keep your balance well below the limit.  The higher your balance, the more impact it has on your credit score.  My personal rule of thumb is to never borrow more than ½ of the available credit on your credit cards.  This shows good financial stewardship in handling debt.
  2. Keep credit card balances low.  If you need to use them, pay them off right away.  Consider the card a convenience, not as available money to be spent.  After a day of shopping, go online and pay that sum off so the balance is always low!
  3. Pay down your credit cards.  Paying off your installment loans (mortgage, auto, student, etc.) can help your credit score, but typically not as dramatically as paying down – or paying off – revolving accounts such as credit cards.
  4. Don’t close unused credit cards.  If you have a low-interest card you do not use, keep it open and use it periodically.  Have a zero-balance credit card actually helps to improve a low credit score.
  5. Keep your income taxes current, by filing every single year.  You may owe money to the Government, but you can’t borrow money unless those taxes are at least filed!
  6. Never buy “toys” on credit.  Often we feel we deserve that more expensive car, the boat at the lake, the Recreational Vehicle, the snowmobile for seasonal use.  If you really feel you deserve them, save the money to buy them!  They quickly depreciate and are worth far less than you paid for them, so paying interest on a toy makes no sense at all.
  7. Pay cash for a car.  You will never get rich if you have a car payment.  Keep that $450/month and pay down your mortgage faster or invest it into an asset.  I personally have a “car account” where I put a pretend monthly car payment.  By saving the payment in advance, I can pay cash for my next car!
  8. paid in fullAlways pay your Household bills on time OR before they are due!  I personally open my mail over the garbage can, opening the bills, throwing out the junk mail on the spot.  I take my bills to my computer and pay them online right then and there.  Paying them on time may not improve your credit score, but it WILL negatively affect your score if you are late!
  9. Always pay the balance of a bill, plus just a little bit more.  If the phone bill is $54.25, then pay $55.
  10. Pay your mortgage weekly, or bi-weekly.  You save years on paying down your house just by making more frequent, smaller payments.
  11. Round up your mortgage payment.  If your mortgage payment is $750 every two weeks, talk to your lender and raise the payments to an even $800.  Every payment you make puts an additional $50 right back into your pocket!
  12. Pay down as much as you can on your mortgage during the first five years.  The first five years over the course of the mortgage is where the most interest is paid.  If you take your income tax refund, use your Christmas bonus or set extra money aside, you can pay down as much as 15% of the mortgage each year without penalty.
  13. When renewing your mortgage after the first term is over, keep the payments exactly where they have been for that last 5 years.  You are used to living with that payment, and you will be applying much more money towards the principle by doing so.
  14. Never co-sign a loan for a friend.  It drastically affects your lending ability as you are technically responsible for that debt, even though it belongs to the friend.
  15. Your Emergency fund.  Always try to have a minimum of 6 months wages saved in the bank.  It’s not there to spend, but rather to be there in case of an emergency, such as the loss of a job.
  16. Try living on cash for a whole month.  It’s amazing how we spend money through debit and credit cards without giving the real value of cold hard cash much thought.
  17. Review your credit report annually.  Review it carefully for errors and signs of identity theft. Click on the following links:


Organizing your Financial Life

12 Tips to Organizing your Financial Life

Putting your financial life together just makes you feel better, and you know where everything is at your fingertips!  All you need are some Hanging Folders, a Pen and a box of File Folders.


  1. TAX RETURNS:  Label 8 file folders, one for each of the last 7 years plus one for the current year.  In it you want your important documents such as T-4’s, donation receipts, RSP contributions, etc., the return filed by your accountant, and your Notice of Assessment from the Government.  Place a business card for your accountant in this file for easy reference.
  2. CANADA PENSION PLAN/OLD AGE SECURITY:  Place your most recent CPP statement in this folder.  If you don’t have a recent one you can go to  to request one.
  3. RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS: Create a file for each separate RRSP account that you have.  Keep the most current monthly statement in these files.  Place a business card for each investment contact in this file.
  4. INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS:  These file are for anything other than your retirement accounts, such as mutual funds, GIC, stocks, bonds, etc.  Place a business card for your investment contact in this file.
  5. SAVINGS AND CHEQUINGS:  For each bank account, create a file and keep a copy of your monthly statements in these files.
  6. file and pencilHOUSEHOLD ACCOUNTS:  Create a file for each set of documents.  In these files you want a copy of the mortgage papers, a file to hold a copy of the survey, your real estate Agreement of Purchase and Sale, receipts for any home improvements that you make to the home, monthly bills, etc.  If you are a tenant, you will want to keep a copy of your lease, and rent receipts and security deposits.
  7. CREDIT CARD DEBT:  Create a file for each one of your credit cards.  In the file you will keep a copy of the statement.  Be sure to review your statement every month to ensure that the purchases charged to the account are accurate, as well as watching for correct credit on any returns.
  8. OTHER DEBTS:  In these files you will keep copies of any other kinds of liabilities, such as student loans, car loans, lines of credit, etc.  On the top of each file write down the final payment due date so you know when you are debt free!
  9. INSURANCE:  Make a folder for each kind of insurance, such as automobile, life,
    home, tenant’s, disability, long-term care and health.  In the Health file keep a copy of your company Benefit’s Handbook and any refund requisition forms. Keep a copy of refundable receipts in this file until you are ready to request a refund from your Company’s insurer.  Place business cards for your life insurance representative plus any other contacts you will need to be in touch with.
  10. WILLS:  Keep a most recent copy of your Wills (in a sealed envelope), Living Trusts and Power of Attorneys.  Keep your lawyer’s business card in this file.
  11. CHILDREN:  Create a file for each of your children.  In these files you want and RESP’s, savings accounts, other investments.  Keep a photocopy of their Health Cards, Social Insurance Numbers and Birth Certificates.
  12. MANUALS and WARRANTIES:  Something that usually gets overlooked is finding a home for all those appliance and electronics manuals.  I register the warranties then file the manuals, warranty cards and original receipts in a file folder.  It’s amazing how few times you’ll need these, but how convenient it is to find them when they are needed!