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Wow loved ones with unique gifts from crafts markets this holiday season





Got $10 to spend on a handmade gift to warm hearts and hands of all sizes? A purchase that will please the planet while boosting a local artisan?

Then you’ll be smitten with mittens crafted from recycled sweaters by hobbyist Debbie Edison. Selling for $10 a pair, the fleece-lined cozies are one example of the dollar-stretching, original gift ideas at holiday craft shows, markets and bazaars.

“People like seeing who made it, and they love to buy something that’s recycled,” Edison says, explaining why customers veer off the beaten retail path in favour of seasonal pop-ups.

Based in Colborne, Ont., she makes clothing accessories and kids’ tutus when she’s not delivering mail and newspapers for a living. Her craft show appearances, including one in Port Hope on Dec. 8, are noted on Facebook under the name “Just Tulle’in Around.”

If you need more reasons to shop the shows, try these on for size: less wasteful packaging, merchandise you won’t find anywhere else and support for the creative little guy. Add season’s eatings, free activities and entertainment, wrap it all up in a cheery atmosphere and shopping becomes a festive family outing.

And here’s a bonus: many vendors accept cash only, meaning no credit card bills to worry about.

Here’s a sampling of what we’ll call “mall-ternatives:”

Junction Holiday Market: Hosted by a west corner of Toronto for more than a decade, this market features hundreds of vendors, shops and artists at multiple locations. In addition to a vast range of goods, there’s complimentary gift wrapping, free photos with Santa, public transit access and lots of affordable parking.

When: Nov. 30, 4 to 8 p.m.; Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Dec. 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: The Junction neighbourhood in the Dundas St. W. and Keele St. area

More info:

Holiday Fair in the Square: Combining Christmas market with winter carnival, this third annual fair organized by Epilepsy Toronto promises “festive fun for everyone.” Unique gift ideas from more than 75 artisans reflect the city’s cultural diversity with products that include clothing, jewelry and decor.

“Buying from our artisans goes a long way as this market is run by and benefits a charity,” says spokesperson Melanie Carrey.

When: Dec. 1 to 23; Tuesday to Thursday, 4 to 9 p.m., Friday to Sunday, 12 to 10 p.m. (closed Mondays)

Where: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.

More info:

Holiday Street Market: It’s worth the drive to Milton for the ugly Christmas sweaters alone ($15 and up). But there will be more than 2,000 niche products at this event — billed as Ontario’s largest outdoor holiday market — showcasing the handiwork of 250 artisans. Special show prices include charcuterie and cutting boards starting at $20 and cushions printed with sayings for $10. For a nominal fee, indoor workshops cover everything from cooking to cookie decorating.

“You’ll be able to save time, gas and money by shopping all in one location,” points out founder and managing director Philip Suos.

When: Dec. 1 and 8; 12 to 7 p.m.

Where: Main St. in downtown Milton

More info:

Old Fashioned Christmas Craft Show: Custom fishing lures for $10 to $15, dolls in knitted outfits for $1 to $15 and home decor items from $3 to $100 are among the creations of 80 crafters and artisans at this fourth annual event just north of Toronto. There’s also jewelry, seasonal decor and self-published books at the show that raises awareness of a community group that brightens seniors’ lives called The Grandparent Connection.

When: Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Newmarket Community Centre, 200 Doug Duncan Drive, Newmarket

More info:

Port Hope Farmers’ Christmas Market: “Handmade” and “homegrown” are the buzzwords for the 10th year in this small-town event east of Toronto. More than 40 vendors can provide everything on your list, from knitted goods, skin-care products and baby wear to wreaths, woodwork and beeswax food wraps. For holiday hosts, there’s European and East Indian foods, preserves, farm veggies and a perennial favourite: perogies priced at five for $2.50.

When: Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Town Park Recreation Centre, 62 McCaul St.

More info: Port Hope Farmers’ Market on Facebook.

Christmas Bazaar & Craft Show: Handicrafts from other countries will be assembled under one Mississauga roof when more than 60 vendors — many from the Middle East — offer up jewelry, artwork, clothing, decorative items and baked goods. Renting retail space is expensive for artisans, says organizer Rose Mary, but the bazaar gives them an affordable place to sell their wares.

When: Dec. 15, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: First United Church Port Credit, 151 Lakeshore Rd. W., Mississauga

More info: Rose events on Facebook.

Carola Vyhnak is a Cobourg-based writer covering home and real-estate stories. She is a contributor for the Star. Reach her at


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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place. HomeYou’ve been selected.Only $1.49/week for your first 4 months.Special offer just for you. Unlimited access.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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A Simplified Guide for Toronto First-Time Home Buyers





Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the fourth largest city in North America, which makes it an exciting place to live in.

But as with other major cities, finding the perfect place to move to can get tricky. If you’re planning on buying a home for the first time in this city, it is indeed a big decision and there are things you should know in advance.

Don’t worry, this guide will help explain the basics of what you as a buyer should know when you decide to buy a home. It will make you feel like a true expert during the buying process.

Decide what type of home you are looking for

There is no right answer to what makes a good home. It all depends on your preferences and needs as the resident. It is, therefore, a good idea to determine as early as possible which features of a home are important to you. If you are buying a home and moving in with someone, it can be a good idea for both of you to make a list and compare.

Toronto is a city that offers different styles of living accommodations and its neighborhoods are quite versatile and diverse, same as the people living there who come from all parts of the world.

The most common forms of housing and real estate opportunities in this city include bungalows, two-storey houses, split-level homes, and the very popular Toronto condos. Due to the high property values, the city boasts of construction of many condominiums as they are a more cost-efficient choice and provide a plethora of benefits.

When you decide on the type of home you want to buy, it is good to do some research and learn the biggest differences between them.

What to think of when choosing homes in Toronto

There are certain things you need to consider when choosing your home in this city. 

Being close to the things you need to visit every day makes life a lot easier. Pay attention to the proximity to shops, preschools, schools, and your job. In addition, access to good public transportation is crucial. Being able to move around the city easily and the opportunity to commute is important to many.

Know that having a balcony can significantly increase the value of your home and improve your well-being. Being able to move easily in the area is something that many people underestimate, but can be very convenient, and this is why you should see if there are good cycles and walking paths. 

And finally, make sure that the house is well designed which is a quality that does not disappear with the age of the house or with renovations. 

Set your budget

Before you start the search for your new home, you must know how expensive of a home you can buy. It is preferable to know in what price range to look for. The budget is usually decided based on your mortgage and how large are the monthly costs you can handle.

A mortgage is always about a balance between risk and income for the bank. The higher the risk for the bank to lend to a particular home, the more expensive the mortgage will be. When it comes to the bank’s reasoning when applying for a loan, it is in principle always a question of whether you as a borrower will be able to repay the mortgage.

The bank also takes into account your financial history. If you are a person who has managed your finances well, the chance increases that you will get your mortgage approved. If, on the other hand, you have a bad reputation with banks, it is weighed in as an aggravating circumstance.

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