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The Bear Stand retreat rises from the Haliburton Highlands

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Rising out of the Haliburton Highlands, The Bear Stand — named for the area’s past hunting legacy — is a spectacular retreat.

Built for Sharon Leece and her husband Joe Magrath, who grew up spending summers in the area, the 3,300-square-foot home sits on nearly 100 acres of woodland. It has 1,300 feet of uninterrupted shoreline on Contau Lake, and Crown lands beside and behind it.

The home’s lower level contains the living and dining spaces that look onto the lake and a rock face with expansive windows. The focal point of the main floor is a double-height, granite fireplace. There’s one guest suite on the lower level and another on the upper level where the master suite is located, along with a bunk room with four beds, and a den with a view to the lake and the surrounding forest.

The Bear Stand, three hours northeast of Toronto, is available for rent and also features a private sauna, ofuro soaking tub and hot tub.

Building materials include local blue granite for the fireplace, cedar exterior siding, Douglas fir glulam beams, wire-brushed walnut flooring, benches and bar tops reclaimed from a nearby farm.

The Bear Stand took five years to design and build and was completed in 2016.

Robert Miller, principal architect, and project manager Kyle Phillips, both with the Seattle firm Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson, answered a few questions about The Bear Stand.

What was your inspiration for the design?

Robert: We spent quite a bit of time with Sharon and Joe and their daughter on the site, hearing stories about them growing up there and how the families used the lake. That was really an inspiration being on that site, trying to connect with the natural environment.

The fireplace is massive and dramatic — how did its design evolve?

Kyle: The fireplace is a centrepiece of the living space — it grows out of that camping idea where everyone is gathered around the fireplace.

Robert: There’s a lot going on there. It’s double-height, double-sided with a skylight above which brings light down to the base of the stonework. If you walk around the fireplace mass you have a screened-in porch outside with a fireplace there as well as one on the second floor in the master bedroom.

What challenges did you face?

Robert: There are serious rock outcroppings; that’s one of the beauties of the area but also one of the challenges. We have good contractors who are used to dealing with that. It was a bit of an unknown going into construction. We knew there would be rock there but we didn’t know the quality of the rock underneath. They ended up having to blast out additional rock just because the rock had been fragmented a bit. That part of the project took a little bit of extra effort.

Owners love the modern design, pristine landscape

Sharon Leece offers a few thoughts about her family’s retreat:

  • What did you want from the design? As a Shanghai-based, Canadian-British family, we wanted to build an indoor-outdoor vacation home that fused our passion for contemporary design with a pristine natural environment. We wanted a natural material palette and an unobtrusive form, so the house would blend seamlessly with the site and surrounds and not upstage the incredible landscape.
  • What is your favourite part? We love the fact that from every angle there are forest and lake views — reminding us we’re at home in the heart of nature.
  • What do your guests love about it? They’re fascinated by the fact it’s contemporary and comfortable at the same time. They love the indoor-outdoor connectivity, and the views of nature from different angles. We designed the house so multi-generation families can enjoy it — everyone having their own privacy yet being able to gather in the great room or the screen room, or through activities. They also love the screened-in ofuro soaking tub off the master bedroom suite. The combination of steaming hot water, pine forest aromas and the freshest air is really unbeatable.

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

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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

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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

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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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