What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In the Wall Natural Gas Fireplace

Once all our offer had been accepted I started looking for decorating ideas.  There are a few things that we want that will add to the comfort of our new home.  One of the first things we will do is update all the electrical sockets and switches to the European style.  There are light fixtures that definitely will be replaced.  An interesting feature of this house is neither bathroom have a window so I finally get my much coveted solar tube for the main bathroom.  We are in the market for a natural gas fireplace as well.  In the event of a power outage, a natural gas fireplace will still work and it is cheaper to run the fireplace during the months of October and April to take the chill off the house without firing up the furnace.

in the wall natural gas fireplace
During a recent road trip to Niagara Falls we stopped at the casino in Brampton on the way home.  They have remodeled since we were last year.  I fell in love with these gorgeous in-the-wall natural gas fireplaces.  The day we visited was in the midst of the heat wave.  The AC was going strong in the casino so I thought the fireplaces were just decorative.  To my delight they were indeed putting out heat and a fair amount of it too!  Now in terms of economics I thought this was rather fool hardy but since the casino is run by the Ontario Government surprise me [sarcasm].  At any rate, I thought they were absolutely gorgeous.

The fireplaces were mounted about four feet from the floor.  They were recessed into the wall, sticking out into the room by only about an inch.  I would guess the size at about four feet wide, eighteen inches high and about twelve inches deep.  It would make a great accent wall in the new house.  Time to go shopping!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Neighours are So Ticked!

We have had rather good neighbour relations here aside of the fact that one of our neighbours was actually stealing our hydro.  We disconnected that and life has been smooth.  When we moved here we did not ask for a survey because in our minds the lot was pretty much well defined with shrubbery and we weren't planning on erecting any fencing.  Well today the surveyors came out, hired by our buyer.  We discovered on each side our neighbours were using about three feet for a total of six feet the length of our property that we have been paying taxes on but they were using.  Now in all honesty it really didn't matter to us and still doesn't but apparently it matters to our neighbours.  They are suddenly losing that space to use as they desire.  The thing is it was the new buyer who ordered the survey, not us.  So our neighbours on both sides are not talking to us.  I'm scratching my head and saying hey what, we had nothing to do with it.  Our buyer is going to be going into a sticky sitiuation and even stickier since they are planning on fencing the property. 

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Kitchen During the Move

One of my friends sets up a temporary kitchen including a specially packed box to get them started.  It takes her a week or two to get her kitchen up and running.  I cannot do that!  My kitchen is the last room packed up but the first one set up.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First off during any move we have friends and family helping meaning I want a coffee station, cold beverages in the fridge and snacks.  I have good culinary skills so want that reflected in the moving day snacks so there is no way I'm going to offer bagged potato chips to those helping us move!  It is our way of thanking our family and friends for their very generous help.  I want to be able to make a proper hot breakfast the first morning in our new house.  This blesses the house bringing good karma and good fortune for your future in your new home.

I rely on the following to achieve this goal:

  • slow cooker
  • outdoor grill
  • coolers
  • a few pre-made dishes
Adding to the kitchen issues during this move is I have absolutely no choice but to process all of my tomato products between now and September 17.  I'm going to be tired from moving but have no choice.  That means I will be processing about 10 hampers (5/8 bushel) within that time frame otherwise we have not tomato products for the upcoming year.  My husband is brought home the first two hampers last Sunday making a long day even longer.  It doesn't help that I have an internal infection that is really sapping my energy. 

Here's my plans for dealing with canning tomato products while in the midst of the move:
  • this kitchen - This kitchen will remain fully functional until the first week of September at which time the new kitchen will be fully functional.  We need to install a gas line for our new kitchen range.  All of my canning needs will be transferred over to the new house prior to that date.  I will spend the mornings canning here.  That allows me two to three runs of the pressure canner before lunch time.  I can then focus on packing and organizing for the afternoon then relaxing in the evening.  
  • new kitchen - I anticipate canning in my new kitchen by September 10 if not sooner depending how fast we can get the gas line moved.  By that date my entire pantry including empty jars will have been moved to our new house by then and the new dishwasher will have be installed.  

Garden Gnome

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Cost of Moving

There is no doubt about it that moving costs money.  It doesn't matter whether you hire movers or have family and friends help you move, the bottom line is moving comes with an expense.  Some of those costs can be reduced or eliminated but others are simply unavoidable.  Here's a few expenses from our move:

  • real estate fees - We sold so that means there are real estate fees involved.  We were able to negotiate a lower commission on the sale of our house so that saved us a bit of money.  
  • legal fees - The sale of a house always involves legal fees.  There's not much you can do about it other than keep your fingers crossed they are reasonable.
  • utility deposits - Some utility companies will charge a deposit on the account usually based on if you have had service with them previously, your payment history and your credit rating.  The deposit usually is three times the amount of the previous bill at that residence.  I know that isn't fair but that's how they calculate it.  The hydro provider where we are moving charges a deposit if you have not had service with them in the last five years but it you put your account on automatic payment through your bank they waive the deposit.  The gas company charges a deposit but if you provide a reference letter from the account you are moving from they waive the deposit.  So there are ways to avoid paying utility deposits.
  • disconnect/connection fees - Each utility service including phone, satellite or cable television and internet charge a disconnect and connection charge.  However, you can do a bit of bargaining with them.  We will be avoiding any fees if we stay with Bell for our satellite television and phone with adding internet AND they will further give us a discount for bundling our services.  The is no disconnection charge for our satellite internet service.
  • postal service - A permanent redirect of mail from your old address to your new address will cost about $45 at Canada Post (good for 6 months).  An alternative to this is notifying everyone including creditors of your new address.  We have gone to ebilling where possible and really don't want mail at our new address which is rather convenient because it is a superbox rather than direct to the door.  I'm sure there will be a charge for the box keys (usually $10).  
  • municipal fees - Many municipalities want you to recycle but some will charge you for their recycle bin.  We have a few recycle bins and blue garbage bags.  In the end the recycle bins don't cost you to use so are cheaper than the blue bags.
  • moving fees - Whether you hire a professional mover ($90 per hour plus) or DIY the best way to keep costs down during the actual way is to make the move as efficient as possible.  Have everything ready to move come moving day or if possible do the move over a few days.  Do not move anything you do not want or need.  Get rid of those items!  It will save you in the long run on the cost of moving and you may even be able to recoup a few costs if you are able sell off what you don't want.
Garden Gnome

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Economic Benefits of Our Move

Moving can be a costly venture.  In most cases, renters are moving to home ownership, home owners are moving to more expensive home or high cost of living areas.  You don't hear a lot about moves made with the intentions of economical downsizing.  That is precisely what we are do on so many levels.  Here are some areas where this move is going to save us money:

  • mortgage - We are significantly decreasing our mortgage.  This is a big one!  The interesting thing is we are getting a new house with more square footage and increased entertainment potential.
  • property taxes - Our property taxes will decrease by about a quarter yet we will enjoy more amenities.
  • insurance - The will be a reduction in both house and vehicle insurance.
  • travel - Gasoline is only increasing in price and thanks to last year's introduction of HST on gasoline it is even more expensive.  This move will save us on average 40 km driving per day!  It will save having to drive for groceries or to some restaurants.  It shortens the number of kilometres for essentials like doctor visits, hospital and pharmacy. 
  • utilities - Our hydro use will decrease somewhat although we do expect to use the AC a bit more in the warm weather.  We will no longer need to have lights on everyday and the house lends itself nicely to installing a couple of solar tubes so we will have lots of light without the cost.  That should be more than offset by changing to use natural gas for cooking.  Natural gas is about a third of the cost of hydro here in beautiful Ontario, Canada.  We should not see much of an increase on our natural bill because we are going back to charcoal and propane for the outdoor grill that is used almost daily during the warm weather.  Our outdoor grill is currently natural gas.  We will be installing a natural gas fireplace because they are quite economical.  The new one will be more energy efficient than our current circa 1980's gas fireplace.  Our water usage will increase with the pool.
  • phones - Our basic landline service will remain the same cost but we are switching my cell phone to a pay as you go.  We may check out ooma.com for our landline but haven't decided yet.
  • television - Our satellite television service will remain the same.  Satellite is pretty much the same price as cable and there is little point installing an antenna any more.
  • internet - Our internet service will be changing from the high priced faux highspeed of satellite to lower priced, real highspeed!  A bonus is we will no longer have to put FAPing or almost daily satellite internet outages.  I fired the satellite service yesterday effective September 14, the day before our official closing date. 

Garden Gnome

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hiring a Professional Mover

We are avid DIYers with an extremely good support system of family and friends who are more than willing to help us out at the drop of a hat.  They have helped us move multiple times over the years.  The last move we arranged to move most of the small things then hired movers for the large appliances and furniture.  The thing is we as well as our friends are not getting any younger.  Moving involves heavier lifting that is not the easiest on older bodies.  We were so impressed with this arrangement that we decided to hire professional movers for this move. 

Here are a few things to consider when hiring professional movers:

  • price - Professional movers charge by the hour per man from the time they leave their home location until they return to their home location.   We are paying $90 per hour for two men plus truck.  We estimate we will be paying for about 8 hours of time.
  • liability - You are allowing the movers onto your property to move your possessions from one property to another so it is very important that they are bonded.  Bonded means that they have been screened for criminal activitiy (eg. criminal background check, sexual background check) similar to those needed in any field working with many public sectors and children.  Do not hire anyone that is not bonded.  This is for your protection.  If your property is damaged in any way the movers are legally responsible.  If your property goes missing the movers are legally responsible. 
  • timing - Ideally you want your movers to arrive as early in the day as possible.  By the time they are loaded up you should have the keys for your new house.  Keep in mind though that the normal closing time (aka you get the keys) for some lawyers is 4 PM.  In this case line up your movers to arrive with that unloading time in mind.
  • be clear - Movers are not mind readers.  If you want certain furniture put into certain rooms in your new house have someone there to ensure the furniture gets put where you want it.  If you don't want them move a certain piece of furniture tell them.  
  • make it easy for your movers - Time is money so make it as easy as possible for your movers to get in an out on both ends of the move.  If a door needs to be removed to get larger furniture out, remove it before the movers arrive.  Keep their pathway as clear as possible, doors open and floors protected.

Garden Gnome

Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing and Planning

We can start moving into the new house on September 1.  We have been doing a lot of packing with the hopes of being able to get most of the small things moved before the movers arrive on September 6.  Yesterday, my husband arranged for gas, electricity and water at the new house.  He still has to arrange for telephone and internet.  There will be an overlap of fourteen days of having services at both houses but in the big picture it should work out to be the same amount.  We still have to arrange to have a couple of natural gas lines run inside the house. 

Yesterday, we went shopping.  We bought a dishwasher, natural gas range and small breakfast table.  We looked at mattresses and bedroom furniture and have our eye on a dining room set so our purchases will be added to once we decide what we want that way.  What we did buy is being delivered on September 2.  We've dealt with this small, local Mom & Pop furniture and appliance store since being newlyweds.  Unlike the big box stores we get quality service from them and besides we like to support local business.  We still have to shop for televisions and bookshelves.

All in all things are going rather smoothly preparing for the move.

Garden Gnome

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Expect Anything When Selling a House

Selling your home can be extremely stressful.  This is the fifth house we have sold but the vacation home makes it six purchases and I think we learned from each sale and purchase.  We sold our first house privately to another neighbour.  He wanted the house to use as a rental.  We came up with a gentleman's verbal agreement then had the lawyers draw up the sale.  It was clean, neat with no haggling of price or complicating conditions.  Our last sale was very stressful because the buyer indicated they would not follow through on closing day.  We quickly arranged bridge financing because you are legally responsible for completing the purchase even if your buyer backs out.  You can sue the buyer but you are still obligated to go through with the purchase otherwise you can be sued.

The purchase of our vacation home that triggered the sale of this house and the purchase of our new home brought in new twists.  First the vacation home was purchased sight unseen with legal documentation going back and fourth via courier.  It was a bit more interesting as the vacation house is in the US so there were different rules to follow.  We found out that the negotiations can continue even after everything has been signed with sale of this house.  Certain things like price and conditions cannot be changed but if everyone is mutually agreeable, the closing date can be changed.  In our case there were three parties involved - us, our buyer, our seller.  There were two other parties involved indirectly of us - our buyer's buyer and our seller's seller but the way both had done things neither of these parties factored for us other than influencing dates on either end.  We agreed to the closing date changes but legally we did not have to.  It's interesting what can still happen even though the actual sale is a done deal!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Change in the Closing Date

The is the sixth house we have sold so did not expect much in the way of glitches.  Wrong!  First the house sat on the market for sixteen months before getting an offer.  The offer was under what we paid for the house because the housing market has softened significantly.  So we had two choices.  We could leave the house on the market hoping for a better offer while continuing to pay the high cost of living associated with this house or we could accept the offer knowing the payback period on the loss would be less than two years.  We accepted the offer with a closing date of November 1.  I started packing that night!  My husband started packing up the games room the next day.  We must have had a premonition.

Two weeks after all the papers were signed for the sale of our house and purchase of our new house we get a call from the real estate agent asking if we would consider moving sooner.  Now we had pushed for an earlier moving date but the buyer would not budge.  Apparently she has changed her mind and wanted the closing date moved up to October 1 which didn't work for us so she came back with September 15.  We agreed to the change knowing there wouldn't be a problem with the house we were buying since it is 95% empty.  It is now official which means we have less than two weeks before we start moving!  We are going into overdrive mode with packing while still getting rid of what we don't want. 

Garden Gnome

Saturday, August 6, 2011

House Inspections

A formal house inspection is done by a professional home inspector at the expense of the buyer prior to the final signing of the contract to purchase.  It is usually written into the offer to purchase as a condition.  The house inspection is an extra protection for the buyer so they don't buy a house with undisclosed major repairs needed.  For example, the seller of the house we are in now did not disclose drainage issues, a non-functioning dishwasher and non-functioning air conditioner.  Had we have had a house inspection the drainage issues and non-functioning air conditioner would have been discover prior to us signing the final purchase contract.  The results of a house inspection can cause a buyer to back out of their offer to purchase which is why it is a very common condition on an offer to purchase.

This is our sixth primary resident house purchase.  We have never had a house inspection for any of the houses (5 primary, 1 vacation) we have bought.  In fact, two properties we bought were purchased without seeing inside or even entering the property prior to the closing date.  Of the four houses we successfully sold, the buyers did not ask for a home inspection.  So we have had no experience with home inspections.  The buyer for this house had a home inspection as one of the conditions.

The home inspector arrived at 9 AM this past Wednesday.  The buyer's brother-in-law was with him which is quite normal as is having a real estate agent attend the house inspection.  Now the house inspector was a very congenial, likable person but the brother-in-law was an arrogant jerk.  He was to stay with the inspector as per terms of the house inspection but he kept wandering off.  My husband made a point of following him around.  A house inspection goes from attic to foundation.  The inspector goes into the attic, up on the roof and into any crawl spaces.  He checks the electrical panel, tests all outlets and switches, checks for any plumbing leaks.  He tests the furnace to be sure it works, tests the air conditioner and for any CO leaks on gas appliances.  I was not thrilled on a very hot day to have the AC switched off so he could fire up the furnace.  It lit up nicely and went through the cycle then he switched the AC back on only to fire up the gas fireplace.  I was surprised he did not check the dishwasher as it stays with the house but perhaps he could see it is quite new.  He checks for the insulation value on the walls using a rather nifty gadget.  Oh and the neatest thing is he has a complete portable office set-up complete with printer so the report is written as he does each zone.  Of course he had to plug it in using our electricity, something I didn't bank on since we did not request the inspection so there should be no expense to us.  In the big picture and knowing the home inspection results could be a deal breaker, I wasn't about to say anything about him using a bit of our electricity.  Besides he was a very nice guy!

A house inspection is invasive and extremely stressful for the homeowner.  It is recommended the homeowner remain on the premises and keep an eye on what they are doing.  The professional home inspectors will not climb on your furniture or touch your personal possessions.  The buyer or a  representative for the buyer should be with the house inspector during the inspection.  It is recommended that the seller move anything that will prevent the home inspector from getting a good view of what they need to see (eg. items in under the sink cabinets).  The home inspector will bring their own ladder for getting onto the roof.  A house inspection will cost the buyer  $300  or more.  The inspection will take at least 3 hours.  The seller should provide access for the house inspection then try to be as pleasant as possible (eg. bite your tongue a lot if necessary) to get the inspection done in a timely manner.  If the inspector asks a question or you know there is a problem (eg. our upstairs shower leaks) answer truthfully or in our case volunteer the information.  This tells the home inspector and buyer that you are not hiding any possible problems.

Once the inspection is over, you will feel like you have been run over by a semi-truck.  Relax, breath!  You survived it.  Barring any major, and I do mean major problems (eg. structural, fire hazards) the house inspection is really just a formality that gives the buyer a false sense of security.  The reality is the buyer can't go back on the house inspector even if a major problem was missed AND problems can easily arise with the house during the time between the inspection and the closing date.  This could be as much as 90 days or more.  Anything that happens after the home inspection is only disclosed if the seller is honest enough to say anything. 

Garden Gnome

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Walk Though

Our real estate agent wanted us to do another walk through in the house we are buying.  I think she is concerned that we did not get a formal house inspection.  We have successfully bought five primary residences and one vacation home without formal house inspections of which two properties were bought sight unseen before the closing date.  So we saw no need to get a formal house inspection for this purchase.  Our house is officially sold in that the buyer has waived all of her conditions.  We have not waived the condition that we get the property we want.  Legally we have until August 12th to waive that condition but will more than likely waive it today as soon as we get the seller's signature on the ammended offer from the seller of the property we want.  We have a verbal agreement of acceptance on the changed closing date and moving in early. 

We did another walk through the house yesterday.  We are even more impressed than we were the first time we viewed the property.  The current owners have moved most of their belongings out.  Their twenty year old son is staying there until the end of August so he can continue working at his current job before returning to school in September.  My husband came up with a plan so we can move in three weeks before our official November 1 closing date.  That means we can go in to clean and paint as well as take our time moving our belongings in.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's Official - SOLD!


It was one of the most difficult days in selling out house thus far.  The home inspector with the buyer's BIL spent three hours here this morning.  Now, that just was not good as far as anxiety, nerves and stress not to say I do not function well with strangers especially in my home.  The home inspector was a real sweetheart, the BIL not so much so.  Then we get the call late afternoon just as I had dozed off since I had no sleep the night before that the buyer with agent had a waiver but wanted to go through the house again.  That took another hour but the end result is our house is SOLD!  We took a beating, seriously but it is still SOLD!

That means the next couple of months are going to be filled with decluttering and packing but I can at least get back to cooking that helps relieve my stress levels.  We are hiring movers for all of the large 'stuff' because our closing date is on a Tuesday.  We need to make arrangements with the utilities, change email addresses, email and all that fun stuff.  We will not be having Bell automatically forward to our new phone number if we even have one as we are thinking going cell phone only.  We have not been getting mail here for awhile because of our vacation home so will change that to 'no forwarding address'.  All of our utilities are on ebilling anyway so we don't need mail service to our new address which suits us well with being out of the country three months or more of the year. 

And there we have it.  The house is offically SOLD!  We are off onto a new adventure :)

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bathroom Vanity Idea

glass bathroom countertop
Glass Bathroom Counter
July 31, 2011

We spent part of our Civic Holiday weekend in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  Now don't laugh but I have been known on more than one occasion to photograph the restroom facilities.  We are very near closing the deal for selling our house.  I'm always looking for great ideas for our house.  Just look at this gorgeous restroom sink set-up!  The entire backdrop is mirror.  The silver poles provide support and the drainage system.  The glass sink surface tips lower so water goes into a narrow trough at the back.  I thought it was very unique.  Now how could I change this to fit into a guest bathroom at home?

Garden Gnome

Monday, August 1, 2011

House Sale Offer Update

No one ever said it would be easy to sell your house.  Now ideally it should be a good offer close to what you are looking for in price without a lot of complicating conditions and in a very timely fashion.  The thing is the current economic downturn has resulted anything but the ideal situation.  We have been going back and forth with an interested buyer who has decided the deal is back on again so we are signing that deal tomorrow.  It has conditions and we are showing the house on Wednesday meaning the current offer is first up with a 48 hour clause to remove the conditions otherwise we can accept a better offer. 

Garden Gnome