The Finishing Touches (Listing Our Home)

As you know, we are in the process of prepping our own house for sale.

As an agent, I know what we need to do and I have made a list of repairs and touch-ups, compiled a list of staging items, given Corey a list of furniture to remove, booked the floor plans, photos, inspection and house cleaning, made a list of upgrades and other important info, started work on the feature sheets and determined a strategy and pricing plan.  It's a lot of work and expensive and time-consuming but I do this part all the time so I find comfort in the fact that my system works and I know exactly what to do!

As a seller, I am a nervous wreck.  There's so much to do and it's hard to get anything done between work, Rudy and the pets.  Corey's been pulling some late nights and we've started packing and painting.  One lucky convenience of being a real estate agent, is that I already had a storage locker (which I use for staging supplies) ready to move our boxes and extra furniture into.  Aside, from that, we're pretty much in the same boat as every other seller.  We're working our buns off and secretly flip-flopping between worries than nobody will like our house and fantasies that someone will fall in love any pay hundreds of thousands over market value and we'll be rich.  Our reality will fall somewhere in the middle.

I've already had so many people teasingly ask me if I'm taking all the advice that I would typically give my clients.  I am proud to say that I am!  What I believe to be beneficial for my clients, I believe for myself as well.  I thought you might enjoy a little summary of some of the prep we're doing before we sell:


While I often advise against major renovations for the purpose of selling (there's no point unless I expect a seller to recover more than the money they spend) sometimes I make exceptions.  In our case, there were some things that we meant to do to our house but never found the time.  Completing these things will "finish" our house, so in this case, they're worthwhile.

Most notable of the "projects" outstanding in our home are the stucco ceilings in the main floor hallway and two of the bedrooms.  Stucco has a long memory and is hard to repair nicely and ours shows wear and damage in several places.  We're having a company in to smooth our ceilings.  We expect it to cost around $2,000.

Our other big project is to cover the exposed ducts in the second bedroom.  When we had our duct work installed, we decided to bring a trunk up through the second bedroom (from the dining room on the main floor) to the attic, so that vents could be run down to each room from the ceiling, as opposed to having bulkheads all over the main floor.

This left us with an ugly exposed duct in the second bedroom/my office, which we just left for years.  Our plan had been to make a window seat to enclose the duct but we thought we'd wait to do much to the room until we needed it as a nursery.  As you know, we never actually needed a second nursery in this house so it remained my office.  Now, Corey has enclosed the ducts so that the next person won't have to try to imagine what the room could look like.  I plan to stage it with some throw pillows on the window seat.


Ah yes, painting is one of the things I tell most sellers to do before we list.  Light neutrals are so important.  Of course, I do make exceptions and occasionally, I'll advise a seller to keep a room a certain distinctive colour.  In our home, we've used a lot of warm light grey and are repainting most rooms in light neutrals.  I'm making a couple of exceptions: Our dining room is a lovely medium grey-blue.  We deliberately did not paint it a light colour because sometimes light walls in a darker room actually make the room seem more closed off.  Instead, some drama on the walls makes the room seem elegant and cozy.  Our other big exception is Rudy's room, which is a very dark green-blue.  It's a distinctive colour and a part of me wants to lighten the walls to sell but I think Rudy's dealing with enough change throughout this process so I'm going to keep her room as consistent as possible.  As I tell my sellers, we do as much as possible while keeping in mind that people actually live here!


Staging is a big one!  It's hard to accept that not everyone will love our furniture and art as much as we do... but it's true.  We've been moving a lot of our functional furniture to storage and we bought new bedding, night tables and neutral art.  I already had a lot of things in storage that I use for my listings so we'll be using some of that too.  We're removing the cat shelves (sob) but we'll put them back in the new house.  I think we're leaving the family room as a play room, because there's a good chance our buyer will have young kids or will be planning a family in the future.  Aside from the family room, we're keeping the house pretty minimal.

In addition to the furniture, we're focused on removing our scent from the house.  Did you know that every house smells a little like the family who lives there?  It's true and nothing to be embarrassed about... but it is something to be aware of when listing.  I'm not suggesting plugging room deodorizers into every outlet, which is almost as bad as smelling pets or dirty laundry.  No, the ideal house on the market smells like nothing aside from maybe the faint scent of fresh linen or baking.  This will be easier for us to accomplish once the pets are out.  We'll be washing the linens and airing out the house for days before we actually invite buyers in.  Which brings me to my next point...


I know, it's a shocker but many buyers don't like to look at a house while giant slobbery dogs lick their faces and a naughty cat hides toys in their shoes.  Crazy, right???  It's something that I tell my clients and we're taking the advice ourselves: If at all possible, the pets should be out of the house for showings.  Not only are many people allergic to or afraid of animals, it can be upsetting for animals to have strangers trespassing on their territory and getting their human scent everywhere!  Not only that, but people can accidentally let a pet outside or close a door to the room with a litter box... it's best just to send the pets to their vacation homes.

For us, that means that the dogs go to live with their amazing Auntie Miriam (We actually question whether they like her better than us) while Cricket is staying with Corey's mom.  We'll miss them but we hope to sell quickly so we can bring our boys back home!


Once the pets are gone, it will be time for a professional cleaning.  I can't imagine doing it myself, so we're bringing in professionals.  Hopefully, our buyers will think "Wow, these people are so clean!" and they'll never know that I'm the worst at stacking the dishwasher and I never make my bed.  Mwahahaha!


Pricing my own home is a tough gig.  It is human nature to overestimate the value of your own home... HUMAN NATURE!  I know the danger to overpricing a home and the impact it can have on the final sale price, so I didn't want to fall into this trap.  On the other hand, it's so easy to see your own home through rose coloured glasses and to overlook the deficiencies (which you've probably lived with for years) and overvalue the work and upgrades you've put into your home.  How do I know that I'm realistically comparing my home to the comps?  I ask colleagues!  In fact, one colleague and friend has already brought clients through our house and I valued her opinion a lot.  Asking other experts is the only way to make sure my own bias isn't clouding my judgement and that I'm priced aggressively!


So here we are... almost ready to be on the market.  We are exhausted but excited and I have a renewed appreciation and respect for the work it takes from the seller's side to get ready to list their home.  We still have some work to do (I'll be sharing photos next week) and we'd like to cut some corners in the staging department since we're so exhausted... but we're rolling up our sleeves and listening to our agent...ha ha!  She knows what she's doing!


34 (& Our Family Photos from Banff)

Note: All the photos in this post are from our family photo shoot in Banff last August with Crista Lee Photography.  We were thrilled with her flexibility and ideas and these are just a few of many lovely shots she captured of our family.  In case you missed it, I posted here about choosing our outfits and you can see more of our own trip photos are in this post.

Well, here I am in my mid-30's and I think I officially feel like a real adult and not just some impostor in grown-up clothes.  I think I'm finally feeling more confident in motherhood and life has been good to us this year.

Last year in my birthday post, I speculated that the year to come would allow us to do more work on the house and that we wouldn't be adding to our family.  Well, it actually wasn't a huge year for renovations (we needed an easier year) but we did adopt Cricket.  Isn't it a testament to the unpredictability of life that we can't even seem to predict one year in advance?  In fact, this post is actually late and my 34th birthday was September 27th.  At the time, we had NO IDEA that we'd be buying a house the next week.

When I look around at our crazy hectic lives with lots of pets and a tornado toddler in a little house, I can't even imagine what the next year has in store for us... But I sure am grateful for everything we've been dealt!  Here are some photos from our August trip to Banff.  I think the happiness we felt that day perfectly encapsulates the way we feel at this moment in our lives.

This is a good reminder to me, since life is so busy right now that sometimes we forget to slow down and enjoy it.  I'll admit that there are times when we are so busy and tired that we just need a break... and then we go and add another project.  At 34, the days are long, we are always busy, our home is chaotic... and I am lucky!


Our Fairy Tale House

We've been busy this past week and I always feel a little like I'm cheating when I have big news that I don't post immediately on the blog.  I can't contain my excitement any longer and Corey and I made the news "Facebook official" this afternoon.  Our family and friends have been so supportive and excited for us but I know they (and you) have so many questions (We understand- Our heads are spinning too!) and so I'll answer the most popular questions here!

This is all happening so fast!
That's not a question. :P  But yes, it really is.  For us too!  Corey and I keep looking at each other and asking if we're crazy.  In truth, we just have a habit of making major decisions rather quickly.  When I look back to some of our major life changes (buying our current house, adopting Barkley, Cheetah and then Cricket, getting pregnant with Rudy...) they were all decisions we made very quickly and we stand by each of them.  I think it's because we're constantly discussing our goals and the direction our lives are headed and so when an opportunity arises, we're usually already on the same page.  Our gut instinct knows what's right for our family!

Had you been planning this for a while?
Well, Corey and I have been toying with the idea of a move for a few months and we finally decided to gather our tax info to send to our mortgage specialist.  We wanted to see what we could afford before looking at anything (which is the advice I give my clients) but at the same time I tried to prepare Corey for the fact that we would still not be able to to afford a huge detached house in our top neighbourhood and that we'd be making more than a few compromises.  We had chatted a little about our wants and needs and Corey had promised me he'd be open-minded but we hadn't decided on any specific neighbourhoods or anything.  So, yes, we'd been thinking about a move but we hadn't looked at any properties (even just online) until this week.  

So... How did it happen?
We finally got our pre-approval and a green light to start looking.  I wasn't working that evening so I told Corey we could browse houses together online to give him a sense of what to expect.  I reminded him that the list prices are often artificially low (to generate multiple offers).  With this in mind, I guided him past the houses it seemed like we could afford (but would likely sell much higher) to the houses we could realistically afford.  

Our pre-approval amount meant we could afford the type of house we wanted in some of our favourite neighbourhoods... but we'd be MAXING out our budget and it would need A LOT of work (like, a-LOT!) and we'd probably still be making some compromises.  It was something we'd consider, but we preferred to leave some wiggle room in our budget.  We weren't going to rule out our top neighbourhoods but the price point made them less and less attractive.  Anyway, we began looking in our second choice neighbourhoods and we immediately saw some cute houses.  One immediately called to us and we decided to see it right away.  

We saw it half and hour later and the entire car ride there Corey reminded me not to pressure him.  I was so good and I treated him like a client as opposed to my husband.  It was so hard because I really wanted to offer on it right away but I stayed calm and let Corey think about it... overnight!  By morning, he was ready to make an offer and I called the other agent right away and arranged to present our offer in person later that day...  and the rest is history!

Why was it so easy to buy?  Don't all houses sell in bidding wars?
Many do, but not all.  This house was an example of what happens when you price too high initially.  It's often a poor strategy because you sit on the market and then people stop considering your house because they assume there's something wrong with it if it wasn't snatched up right away.  This is awful for the seller because often there's nothing really wrong with the house at all!  That was the case here:  Nothing wrong but unfortunate pricing and some cosmetic work required.  There were also a couple of layout quirks that I think a lot of people couldn't look past but we see (relatively) easy solutions for.  

This particular house had also recently reduced the price significantly from their initial asking price and I wanted to offer quickly before it attracted more buyers.  I think our timing was just lucky and we were able to act quickly.  Many of my clients have seen first hand that acting quickly can often make all the difference.

What's it like for a Realtor to buy a house?  Is it easier?
Yes and no.  It's easier because I know so many different neighbourhoods and have easy access to listings and stats and, more importantly, I know how to interpret them.  I also already know the market, so there's no learning curve and I already have a good idea of what I can get expect to buy for my budget.  Aside from that, it's just as hard if not harder!  I am still a buyer and even though I've been through the process so many times with my clients, it's emotional and scary... only I don't have an agent to guide and reassure me!  It's also hard to act like Corey's agent and let him take his time when, as his wife, I just want to tell him we found our dream house and we need to buy it!  It can be hard to wear both hats but it's a good reminder to me of how stressful this process is for my clients!

Are you pregnant?
Ha ha!  I've had three people ask me!  We are buying a larger house with the plan that we will eventually need more space for another child, but I am not currently pregnant.

So what's this house like?
It's really charming!  I think "charming" is the first word I'd use to describe it.  I have actually always dreamed of living in a house like this one.  It has a cross gabled roof (so sloping ceilings in the bedrooms) and a coffered ceiling on the main floor.  The property is large and the house is actually surprisingly large.  I love that the houses in the neighbourhood have large yards with mature trees.  The best part is that it's only about ten minutes away from our current house.  It looks like a small Tudor-style cottage but it's surprisingly large inside.  I'll share more details soon, but it feels like a home.  No, OUR home!

What were your criteria?
We had very few "needs" but here they are: detached (not because we don't love our semi but because we wanted this move to feel like an upgrade), a decent school district, a yard, a larger property, 3 larger bedrooms and parking for 2 cars or the option to get a street permit.  Our "wants" list was longer: a garage, a main floor bathroom, move-in ready, a large basement, 2 storeys, a main floor family room, central air, charm.  In addition to these needs and wants, our house came with a few bonuses: mature trees, a garage and parking for several cars, a small mudroom, a main floor office, two entrances on the main floor: a casual and a more formal entrance on the main floor, a separate entrance to the basement, lots of natural light.

Did you have to make any compromises?
Of course!  Nothing is perfect and this house is no exception.  It needs a full bathroom on the second floor (there's only a half bath currently) but we have some ideas to add on to the second floor already.  The kitchen is small but we think we can make it work with all the extra storage in the house.  Also, when we renovate it eventually, we'll maximize the space that we do have.  The house is on a main street... Which was going to be a dealbreaker for us, except that I remembered a conversation that I recently had with a friend where she told me that she didn't mind living on a busy street because, in a decade, when her daughter is taking the bus home at night, she'll be close to a stop and have a well-lit path home.  Isn't that a lovely way of looking at houses on busy streets?  It has totally changed my outlook!  It's also a corner house and it is set back from the main road and actually also fronts on a quiet, dead-end street.

And you're sure you're not pregnant...?
I promise I'm not!  I do understand why people are skeptical though.  Seriously, everyone keeps asking me!  

Were you picky about neighbourhoods?
Yes and no.  I like so many pockets in the city and I work all over the place so nothing really feels far to me.  We did want to stay in Toronto though, and preferably not too far from our current house, since we're really attached to Rudy's school!

Do you have any projects planned for the new house?
Yes!  I mentioned that we have plans for the upstairs bathroom.  In fact, both bathrooms need to be gutted and eventually, I'll want a new kitchen and floors.  Waaayyy down the road, I'd like to professionally finish the basement.  There's also some non-sexy stuff that needs to be done like minor grading and electrical work.  With all these projects, we still want to maintain the look and feel of our 1940's house so while we have lots of planned, we'll be trying to leave most of the architectural details.  Other than that, it's going to be fun just painting and decorating.  

What about your current house?
Oh we need to sell it.  The new house came in way under budget but we still can't afford to carry both houses.

Are you ready to sell it?
Not yet... but we will be!  Just don't hate us if we don't have lots of time to hang out for the next couple of months!  We have a plan of attack and we are packing and getting ready to stage and list!  We both still have busy work schedules so it's going to be hard but we'll push through!  Emotionally, I don't know if it's fully set in.  Selling is going to be an emotional process since I always thought this would be our long-term home.  I have so many happy memories here and this has been the house where we brought Rudy home after she was born.  I love our neighbourhood and our neighbours and I think I'll leave a little piece of my heart here.

What will you miss most about your current house?
I think, initially, I'll miss our kitchen.  It was designed to utilize every inch of space and it has our beloved gas stove, under cabinet lighting, marble backspash and quartz counters.  It's probably the most luxurious room in the house.  Aside from that, I'll miss the bathroom with my clawfoot tub and the heated floors and I'll miss Rudy's nursery and play room.  Oh... and the new front entrance and mud room.  I love our front door and new steps.  I had them built extra wide because I imagined taking first day of school photos on those steps each year... I'll miss that!

Will you post pictures of the new house?
Yes and I'm so excited to show you all the things I love about the new house... Just let me wait until we officially take possession.  I want to respect the seller's privacy!  Once the house is ours, I'll be snapping "before" photos left, right and centre!  I hope you guys love the living room as much as I do!  It's my favourite room in the house and it's just so open and bright.  Rudy was running through the new house the other night and it almost brought tears to my eyes!

Is this your forever house?
I think so... But I thought that about our current house too.  I think one of the things I love about our new house is that it has the potential to last us for decades.  I like to think our family will grow up here.  I picture a swing on the big tree outside (and maybe a treehouse in the back yard) and I feel like we're really moving home.  It's hard to say "forever" though.  I see so many houses each day and I probably fall in love with a house every six months, so there's always going to be temptation to upgrade down the road!

So now I think I've answered as many questions as I can right now.  I'm excited to share more in the weeks to come.  In case you're curious, you can read about us buying our current house here, here and here!  You know what's funny?  The stock image I used of a house in one of the posts sort of reminds me of the house we bought!


How to Propagate Baby Succulents

As you may already know, I love succulents.  When I first learned that you could grow a new plant from just one leaf, I had to try it for myself!  Here's what I did:

I harvested some leaves by plucking them gently from the plant, careful not to damage the base.  Then I laid them out to dry for three days.  Succulents are really prone to rot, so I wanted them to callous over before I watered them.

After the ends calloused over, I laid them in a dish on top of some cactus potting soil.  I placed the dish in full sunlight and (very) gently watered every few days, making sure that the soil completely dried before watering again.

From there, it was a waiting game.  With the exception of one eager plant, which sprouted very quickly, I didn't see much progress for the first 3 or 4 weeks!

By the end of the seventh week, many of the baby succulents had both new leaves and their own roots.  Of course, I lost some but overall, more than half were successful.

They were finally ready to transplant in their own little pots!  Eventually, the leaves they grew from will dry out and fall off.  I'm definitely going to try this again.


A Week in the Rockies

A couple of weeks ago, Corey and I sat down and he reminded me that it's been 14 months since our last vacation and he can't think of a single day where I haven't done at least some work.  Yikes!

Luckily, we had already planned a family trip to Alberta.  Corey and I had never seen Banff, and we thought that some fresh mountain air and lots of hiking would be the perfect remedy to Toronto's brutal summer heat.  

We set off for a week of travel from Calgary to Banff to Jasper to the Icefields and back to Calgary again.  With a toddler, we knew we'd need to plan our travel time carefully and we thought any drive more than four hours in a day would likely be pressing our luck.

Rudy turned out to be a trooper and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy our trip.  Here are some photos, if you'd like to see.

We loved seeing the stunning turquoise waters of the glacier-fed lakes.  We had a few "must see" sights such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Spirit Island (pictured above) but we left some flexibility in our schedules.  One helpful waiter encouraged us to visit Peyto Lake (below) which was spectacular and was shaped like a wolf's head.

The crowds at the popular lakes get crazy by mid-morning, but Rudy kept us on Toronto time (we were waking up at 5 a.m.!) so we were usually some of the first people to arrive at the lake in the morning.  It gave us some quiet time to privately enjoy the sights.

We encountered several bears on our trip and this grizzly was enjoying some berries in a parking lot one morning.  He walked right past us and we were lucky enough to observe him for a few minutes from the safety of our car.

Bears weren't the only wildlife we were lucky enough to see.  We also saw mountain goats and several elk.  It's their rut season so we were able to see the bulls antler wrestling more than once!

A major highlight for us was a visit to the Icefields.  We booked a tour that takes you up a mountain and allows you to walk on the Athabaska Glacier.  Again, we went early and were on the (nearly empty) first tour of the day.  Aside from about ten other people, we had the glacier all to ourselves.  We had bought spikes to slide over our shoes before the trip and we dressed really warmly.  It was exhilarating to walk on the glacier and fill our waterbottles with clear glacier water.  Rudy fell asleep on the ride back down the mountain.

We ended our trip in Calgary and we took advantage of our reciprocal membership at the Science Centre.

I think the highlights of the holiday for me were just being able to focus on Corey and Rudy for a full uninterrupted week.  We loved exposing Rudy to our love of wildlife and the outdoors and Rudy loved collecting rocks.

Corey and I keep saying that this was probably our favourite trip ever and we're already brainstorming ideas for next August!


Planning Family Photos

I was watching Rudy play the other day and, for the first time, I kept thinking that she's starting to look more like a child than a baby.  Sometimes, it's a little hard for me to remember her at this time last year.  I'm glad when social media reminds me that she was crawling and getting ready to take her first steps while holding furniture.  Now she's an energetic toddler who runs and climbs and twirls and tries to somersault.  As I watched her play, I felt myself tearing up because I have loved every stage with her, but there are so many adorable and hilarious toddler mannerisms that I'm sure I'll have forgotten in a couple of years.

We are heading off to Western Canada shortly for a family vacation and I thought it would be the perfect place to have some professional family photos taken.  What better time in our lives to memorialize than when we're happy and relaxed on holiday?  Right now, Rudy is at this magical age where the world is a place to explore and she's still our baby but she's on the verge of being able to do so much!

Being a planner, I wanted to manage everything long before our trip and I agonized over choosing a photographer, locations and wardrobe.  I wanted our clothes to look great on us but not distract from the scenery and I wanted to be coordinated but not too matchy!

So how do you look coordinated and polished but not like your family uniform is jeans and black t-shirts?  You choose a basic colour palette with coordinating colours and start there.  They say that if colours are found together in nature, they'll work.  They don't all need to be from the same colour family, although I find that many shades of the same colour also look nice.

I used this site for my colour palette inspiration.  Some of my favourites are below.  I can't say I'm surprised by the number of photos containing succulents.  ;)

Our first outfits are mainly J. Crew with the exception of my dress (Gap) and Corey's Jeans (American Eagle).  Shopping at the same store when they have a new seasonal line out is a great way to find coordinating colours and fabrics.

We also wanted some casual clothes for the photo shoot.  We chose clothes that would be more reflective of how we dressed on a regular basis. We chose a palette of blue, teal and mint to compliment the lake and mountain backdrop of the photoshoot.  The photo below is terrible (it was taken hastily at night while we were packing) but I'm actually really excited about these outfits.

For more inspiration and tips, here are two great articles on the topic by other bloggers:


Chair Makeover

I love a good "Before and After" post and when my mom decided it was time to do something about her (comfortable but dated) wing-back chairs, I rushed over to snap a photo.

It was nice, but a little bland and I hoped she'd choose something contemporary like a modern floral pattern to punch it up!  I always love seeing large, bright floral prints in magazines.

I'd been eyeing this upholstery pattern on fabric.com for a long time.  I had hoped to use it to cover a chair but I never found the right chair.  I got really excited when my mother emailed me a link to the exact pattern I liked.

It's rare that we agree on this sort of thing and it sort of felt like kismet.  

Now her modern looking chairs are lovely seats for people (or cats) in her sun room.

It really makes me want to find a bright fabric for the bland (but comfy) couch in the family room.

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