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First-time cottage owner shares 4 tips for working with contractors

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Every renovation comes with a steep learning curve. To help would-be reno’ers identify the biggest pain points before they pick up a sledgehammer, we’re talking to real homeowners about their greatest renovation lessons and what they would do differently the next time around.

Meet Rachel Yeager, a Toronto-based marketing professional and real estate investor.

Seven years ago, Rachel and her husband Mark had the foresight to look east at a 50-year-old bungalow with a lakeside view in Prince Edward County. The first-time cottage owners yearned for a place to escape outside the city and planned to split their time between the two properties, occasionally renting to vacationers to help make the home financially viable. With their family, friends and rental guests in mind, the couple cut their teeth in renovating for the first time.







Photo: Rachel Yeager 

“Most of the rooms were closed off to the view of the lake, so we set out to open it up, make it bright and maximize the gorgeous views with an open-concept space and big windows,” Rachel explains.

“We definitely learned a lot taking the house down to the studs to give it a new lease on life,” she goes on. “I knew that we were making rookie mistakes.”

1. Build timelines into the contract along with the payment schedule







Photo: Johnny Lam

“Our contractor verbalized timelines to us rather than having them on paper and they were way, way off,” the homeowner tells us.

Rachel discovered contractors may be willing to lower the price if you’re a smaller job, or looking to save money. Just know you won’t be top priority as they juggle your home with others.

To avoid disappointment when timelines take longer than expected, Rachel offers this nugget of advice: “Look for someone who is a good communicator and willing to be honest and up front about how long it will realistically take. If you get a lot of promises that seem too good to be true, this could become a source of frustration in the long run.”

Getting it down on paper helps to keep your contractor accountable and gives you a paper trail to adjust expectations as needed.

2. Shop around for quotes







Photo: Rachel Simpson 

“It’s also worth it to spend the time getting a couple of in-depth quotes,” Rachel suggests. “Even if you are leaning towards working with someone, you can learn a lot from a second opinion and you may be surprised by things you had never thought of before.”

3. Get a one-year warranty from your contractor







Photo: Rachel Simpson

“It’s not unusual for little hiccups to occur post-reno, so ensure your contractor provides a warranty,” Rachel advises. “One year if possible, as it takes time for things to settle and you will notice changes with the seasons and weather fluctuation.”

Luckily, the couple did have a warranty, which came in handy when their faultily-installed shower faucet caused a leak in the laundry room and ultimately mold. The wall had to be ripped out and replaced, but thankfully, not at their expense.

4. When it comes to selecting finishes, think in the long-term







Photo: Rachel Simpson

Budget was top of mind in the process and Rachel was savvy—refurbishing a vintage chest of drawers for the bathroom vanity and saving on high-impact tile from the Restore, for example.

But when Rachel installed laminate over hardwood in an attempt to save some dollars, she learned a valuable lesson in where to splurge and where to save.

“As a contractor recently said to me, you install hardwood floors, you will have them in your home forever. You can refinish them but you won’t replace them. Laminate on the other hand generally looks good for 15 years max, depending on wear and tear. Then they are usually replaced. Over a 25-year period, the hardwood floors are less expensive per square foot.”







Photo: Rachel Simpson

Ultimately, the experience sparked a love of design and renovation for the homeowner. Rachel’s most recent labor of love has been renovating the Prince Edward County Library, a bookstore on Main Street – and now – pop-up space for local businesses, in support of the library expansion project. Adorable tile on the floor spells “County Up.”

While lessons were learned along the way, Rachel is ultimately thrilled with the end result and being able to see the glistening lake from anywhere in the home. She tells Livabl, “Every time I walk through the door, I’m still awed and humbled by it.”







Photo: rachyeegs/Instagram

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Covid-19 altering Canadians’ housing needs: RBC

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Amid a pandemic-driven shift in demand as well as a surge in new listings, the Canadian housing market remained strong in August, RBC Economics reports.

Citing preliminary data from local real estate boards, RBC said that markets in many areas of the country remained “red hot” in August.

“But the bigger story might be that Covid-19 is now prompting more people to sell,” the report said, noting that new listings surged in urban centres such as Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.

“We think this in part reflects the pandemic altering the housing needs of many current owners — who are opting to move, something they might not have considered just a few months ago,” it said.

RBC noted that the Toronto market saw new listings jump 57% year over year in August, powering a 40% increase in home sales.

Sales were up more than 20% from July’s near-record levels, it said.

“Clearly, [that] market has fired on all cylinders this summer, making up for the major disruption caused by Covid-19 in the spring,” RBC said.

The primary drivers of sales activity and higher prices were low-rise homes, including single-detached homes, RBC reported.

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RBC’s customer base makes it a favourite of cyber attacks – security experts

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Royal Bank of Canada is among the most targeted institutions by cyber attacks due to its broad customer base, according to an analysis by Palo Alto Networks.

From December 2019 up to present, cybercriminals have been establishing malicious pages disguised as websites by major companies to conduct phishing attempts and other similarly invasive attacks.

RBC ranked third in the most spoofed domains list, more than streaming giant Netflix and professional networking portal LinkedIn. PayPal and Apple ranked first and second, respectively.

“When you look at the broad customer base that RBC has, it makes sense, especially when you compare it to some of the other big names,” said Jen Miller-Osborn, deputy director of threat research at Palo Alto Networks. “These attackers are going after [domains] where they can make the most money, so they’re focusing on these organizations that have really broad customer bases because that really ups the number of potential victims.”

In an interview with BNN Bloomberg, Miller-Osborn outlined what consumers should be looking out for to filter our fraudulent emails.

“Typically, the ones that are going to be scam-related are trying to invoke some sort of emotional response,” Miller-Osborn said. “So they might say something like ‘Someone tried to change your password, click here to say whether or not that was you,’ or ‘Click here to confirm this charge on your statement,’ or ‘We’ve locked your account for strange activity.’ Essentially, things that will make people anxious and will make them want to click first, and not take a step back and pause to think, ‘Is that really the kind of email that my bank would usually send?’”

Other red flags include misspellings and basic grammar errors in the message, especially the sender line.

“Attackers try to closely mimic domain names, so you might see the number zero substituted for ‘o’, or a one substituted for the letter ‘l’. Little thing like an extra ‘s’ or ‘c’ in the name. These things, people tend to glance over very quickly and not notice.”

Miller-Osborn said that these measures should be done in concert with the most effective step in deflecting a spoofing attempt: Calling the bank and asking them if the email that they supposedly sent was legitimate.

 

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Queen confirms new home at Windsor Castle with Buckingham Palace for ‘selected events’

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The Queen will be returning to Windsor Castle in a matter of weeks, with Buckingham Palace only used for ‘select events’.

Her Majesty and her husband Duke of Edinburgh will first spend time privately at Sandringham when they leave Balmoral next week, Buckingham Palace confirmed.

She had been spending summer at her retreat in Aberdeenshire amid speculation that she would not return to the capital amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will depart Balmoral Castle during the week commencing September 14 to spend time privately on the Sandringham Estate.

“Subject to the finalisation of the autumn programme, Her Majesty’s intention is to return to Windsor Castle in October and to resume the use of Buckingham Palace for selected audiences and engagements.

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