19 Nov

Top 5 Renos for Return on Investment


Posted by: Brad Lockey

Adding value to your home is the number one concern for most homeowners. It doesn’t matter if you’re prepping to sell or looking to build long-term equity, knowing the right renos to invest in is important to ensure you get the most bang for your reno buck.

5. Flooring
Ever wonder about the number one request from both homeowners and tenants when they’re looking for a home? Hardwood floors. And why not? Hardwood looks amazing, is timeless and is incredibly durable. It’s also expensive, so it’s wise to weigh your options before shelling out big bucks for the big impact that hardwood delivers. You can go with traditional hardwood or engineered hardwood, or if hardwood isn’t what you’re looking for (or if it isn’t in the budget) there are plenty of great laminate options available to you as well. Regardless of your choice, a flooring update always brings new life to a space and instantly gives the impression of a renovated and redecorated space.

4. Hardware & Fixtures
It sounds like a simple little update that doesn’t mean a lot, but replacing relatively inexpensive items like faucets, sinks, toilets and drawer pulls can make a big impact.

Let’s face it: Switchplates are $.49 at your local hardware store, so there’s no excuse. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also a drop in the bucket and things like doorknobs, light fixtures and faucets are also inexpensive, minor updates that can really improve the entire feel of a room. A small investment can equal a big return, making the space feel fresh and modern.

3. Bathrooms
The first rule of bathroom renos: If it’s pink or blue, rip it out! Pastels, seashell tiles and fuzzy toilet seat covers scream ‘grandma’s house,’ and while you probably have fond childhood memories from grandma’s house, chances are you don’t sit around reminiscing about the décor.

When you ask people to describe their perfect bathroom, about 95% of people use the words “spa like.” What does that mean exactly? From my experience it means a soothing colour palette, clean lines, modern materials and chic finishes. You may be hearing “cha-ching”, but keep in mind that bathrooms are small and therefore require less material. Consider making a statement with a stand-out tile or funky sink or faucet to set the tone of the space – a little goes a long way.

2. Kitchens
Kitchen remodels are notoriously expensive. When you start throwing around words like “granite,” “stainless steel,” and perhaps the scariest – “custom,” it can make a lifetime courting takeout menus sound like a good idea. But don’t panic – I have good news on two fronts: Not only can you do a great kitchen renovation on realistic budget, but kitchens also give you the biggest return on investment far beyond any other room in the house.

Don’t believe the hype – there’s almost never a need to invest in custom cabinets. Out of all the Income Property reveals over the years, only two have been custom. The trick? You can customize standard, out-of-the-box cabinetry to almost any kitchen layout.

When it comes to counters, while stone is still the number one choice, there are more and more affordable alternatives that look expensive – butcher block, composite, and high-end laminates are all great options.

1. Income Suites
No shock here, but it’s true – there’s no renovation you can do to your home that will increase its value as adding an income suite. Whether it’s your basement, a third floor or loft conversion, or even a coach house style suite in a garage, income suite renovations, when done correctly, easily allow you to double your investment. The extra bonus?  Not only will an income add a huge amount of value to your home, but it’s an investment that will actively make you money while you build equity. What more could you ask for?


12 Nov

Five ways you’re missing out on free money


Posted by: Brad Lockey

People are often skeptical at the mention of “free money.” Pop culture has taught us that there’s always a catch. When the Joker dumped $20-million in cash on a crowd of parade goers in Tim Burton’s Batman, that windfall came with a side of hot air balloons spewing poisonous gas.

But here are five examples of when you may be passing up free money and we promise, this isn’t just a load of hot air.

Failing to enroll in your company’s retirement plan if they match contributions. When you contribute to your employer’s retirement plan, your company may match you up to a certain percentage. Let’s say your company matches your contributions for every dollar that you contribute to your group RRSP up to 6% of your pay. So if you contribute 6% of your $1,000 paycheque or $60, the company gives you an extra $60 for free.

“There’s usually a period of time that you have to be employed before you opt in. The problem is that nobody reminds you to opt in,” says Scott Plaskett, a certified financial advisor and CEO of Ironshield Financial Planning. “Or maybe they’ve opted-in but they never took a look at the investments and their money is just sitting in cash.”

Contact your human resources department to inquire about your employer’s benefits.

Setting up a Registered Education Savings Plan for your child and then not taking advantage of the government

grants. According to an RBC survey, two-thirds of parents have already set up RESPs for their children but they are not making the maximum contributions. You can receive up to $500 a year in federal government grants when you contribute the $2,500 annual maximum (the federal government matches 20% of the first $2,500 contributed each year for eligible children) to a lifetime limit of $7,200. Set aside some time to put a financial plan in place. “We make time for what’s important to us,” Mr. Plaskett says.

Missing out on government programs. Aside from RESPs, governments want to give you money to start up a business. They want to pay for the cost of energy-efficient improvements to your home such as insulation and draft proofing measures. They want to provide forgivable loans or grants to help lower-income seniors and family members renovate to make homes safer and more accessible. They want to give you money to support you in retirement.

“Low-income seniors are entitled to receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement if their income falls below approximately $18,000,” says Lise Andreana, a certified financial planner and author of Financial Care for your Aging Parent. “People don’t know they’re entitled to it and don’t apply for it.”

Inquire with federal and local jurisdictions for applicable grants.

Not researching the bursaries and scholarships that may apply to you as a student. Individuals, companies, charities and other groups offer free money through scholarships based on a variety of criteria (grades, volunteer work, athletics, financial need, etc.) If you’re still in high school, consult your guidance counsellor for leads or check online on sites such as ScholarshipsCanada.com and StudentAwards.com.

Forgetting to use your loyalty points. You have to spend money to get rewards; but if you don’t use those rewards, you’re wasting opportunities. Check if your points expire. For example, Aeroplan Miles expire if you haven’t earned or redeemed at least one mile in a 12-month period. As for Air Miles, starting Dec. 31, 2011, all reward miles have to be redeemed within five years. (Any miles earned before 2011 have to be redeemed by Dec. 31, 2016.)