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




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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5 DIY Home Improvements for the COVID-19 Lockdown





The global coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of people around the world, to spend more time in their homes this year than they have spent in a long time. As people sit around day after day within the confines of their home, it becomes easier to notice all the areas of the house that need some work. Fortunately, everyone can now afford the extra free time to do the home renovation project they’ve been putting off for years.

Due to the on-going global health crisis, you may not be able to hire any help for your home improvement project; this means that whatever new project you plan to do around the house, whether it’s repainting the home, or installing floor heating systems, you would have to do it yourself.

Here are some do-it-yourself that you may like to try out.

Upgrade to Smart Home Appliances

It’s 2020, what better year to embrace the future by installing a range of high-tech devices that make life extra easy. For instance, with a smart thermostat, your home’s heating and cooling system can go off on their own when not needed, keeping your electricity bills lower. Other appliances that you can make smart include your lighting, home security, music and more.

Clean out your Garage

Homeserve suggests a garage cleanout as a great home improvement project for this season because cleaning out your garage provides some fresh air, the heavy lifting provides some workout and you feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s done.  What’s more, the day would be far spent by the time you’re done with this project. Cleaning out your garage would require you to sweep out any dirt or debris, and get rid of other useless items that may have been stored there for a long time.

Start a Repainting Project

There’s always room for a fresh coat of paint to make everywhere look more alive, so grab a paintbrush and add some extra character to your home. The good news is that you don’t even have to go out for the paint, you can have it shipped directly to your door. Southlandremodeling suggests that if you had 2019 palette or older in your home, now is the time to embrace the latest colour hues of 2020, that show off a more contemporary style and make your home look more sophisticated.

 Build a Patio

Now is the time where every family would enjoy having a paver patio or an outdoor deck, somewhere to sit and get some fresh air when you’re tired of being cooped up inside all day. First you have to ensure that your home has enough space for a patio and that you have enough skills to handle a hammer and other tools for simple construction.

Next you order your needed materials online and get started. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to create an outdoor space that your family can enjoy while being stuck at home.

Install some floor heating systems

Installation of floor heating systems is one of the best home improvement projects that one can get. Many people prefer to hire professionals to do these kinds of installation but if you are up for it, it’s not impossible to do this on a DIY project and get a valuable addition to your home for about half the cost.


There is no reason to continue holding out on your dream DIY home renovation projects, especially now that you have all the time in the world due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Now is the perfect time to transform your home all by yourself!

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13 Montreal Apartments For Rent That Have Breathtaking Outdoor Spaces





With Quebec’s moving day just around the corner, many people are starting to look for a new property to rent. And, now that Montreal real estate activity is back in action, you can start trying to find the perfect space again. And, if you ask me, an apartment that comes with outdoor space is a must when living in the city.

From balconies to shared rooftop spaces, we’re all looking for a place where we can be outdoors. 

Now, more than ever, fresh air is something that we’re all craving. And, with summer coming faster than we think, finding a place with access to the outside is on so many of our checklists. 

Luckily for you, we at MTL Blog have made your job very easy and have gone through listings throughout the city to showcase some of the best rentals, all of which have outdoor spaces. 

Some of these properties offer private balconies while others have surreal rooftops you get access to. Regardless of which one you fall in love with, you’ll be sure to have a summer to remember living in any apartment on this list. 

Get ready for moving day because after looking at these properties, you’re going to be ready to pack your belongings.

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Montreal real-estate market hit hard by pandemic





Like many industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the red-hot Montreal real-estate market has suddenly chilled.

After 61 consecutive months of increases, the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area reported a 68-per-cent decrease in residential sales transactions in April 2020 compared with the year-earlier period, according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers.

The most recent residential real-estate market statistics for the Montreal area showed 1,890 residential sales transactions were concluded last month. Those figures are based on the real-estate brokers’ Centris provincial database.

Montreal has been hit harder than other Canadian cities by the pandemic, and the drop in sales was seen in all six main areas of the Montreal CMA.

The drop in sales applied to all three property categories. Single-family home sales fell 68 per cent (1,048 transactions): plex sales dropped 67 per cent (161 transactions); and condominium sales tumbled 69 per cent (675 transactions).

Despite the drop in sales, real-estate prices rose in the CMA. The median price of single-family homes increased by nine per cent to reach $360,000, while the median price of condominiums climbed 12 per cent to $289,900.

Compared with April 2019, the median price of plexes (two to five dwellings) increased 10 per cent to $595,000.

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