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There just may be a housing shortage problem for squirrels in Toronto!

Not surprisingly, the lure of a cozy, warm protected spaces is irresistible for northern families, especially when the weather starts to get chilly.

Although happy to scamper through backyards, trees and patios during warm weather, come autumn, squirrels, and many other furry four-legged critters, start looking for relatively warm protected nooks to raise their young.

Perhaps there are not enough trees to go around anymore or squirrels are simply becoming upwardly mobile, but this has been a particularly bad year for squirrel’s nests in chimneys.

I have had countless customers call in a complete panic complaining about funny noises, unexplained twigs in the fireplace, and occasionally, squirrels who actually escape into the living room and run amok making horrible messes of carpets and upholstery.

What people need to know is that many older chimney caps need replacing. Unaware of the potential problems, homeowners unfortunately don’t realize it until it’s too late.  The screens in chimney caps may look fine from the ground but upon closer scrutiny, some caps will develop gaps, gaps that are sometimes large enough for a wily little squirrel to wiggle through.

We suggest that customers call a chimney professional to inspect it before you have to experience the not so fun experience of squirrels nesting in your chimney or worse, running through your home uninvited!

This past fall/winter has been unusually busy with calls concerning raccoon and squirrel invasions. I had a guest myself recently. My son looked out the window to see a raccoon easily climbing from the fence to the roof of our bungalow. I asked him to check the roof and guess what? The bugger had chewed a hole around the angle iron to which the hydro line was connected. Eviction procedures are now in force. Part of our service includes inspecting the chimney masonry and flashing. We are usually up there anyway so we have a golden opportunity to notice roof or eavestrough issues.

Bill Rundle
416-473-5662

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Home Sweet Home
Renovation Trends on the Up Swing
By: Kathleen A. Zinck
Freelance Writer

In recent research by Re/Max Canada, fireplaces rank 3rd in return on investment in a list of the six smartest renovations for best return on investment:

  • Landscaping
  • Kitchens
  • Fireplaces
  • Paint
  • Bathrooms
  • Floors

With more people than ever opting to renovate rather than move, home renovation spending in Canada has climbed from $21 billion in 1999 to an estimated $42 billion in 2006, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC).

Renovating an existing fireplace, or installing a new one, is one of the most frequent choices by homeowners not only because it increases the enjoyment of the home but it also adds considerable value.

According to the National Home Builder's Association, 77% of home buyers list a fireplace as a most-wanted amenity. As a seller, you may enjoy a 6% to 12% increase in your home's sales price simply by adding a fireplace.

Finding the money to renovate a home has never been easier. Today, banks are too happy to offer low-interest loans against a mortgage to facilitate just about any home renovation. They're filling newspapers with advertisements for renovation loans and making telemarketing calls across the city. And low financing costs are only making these sorts of loans more appealing. If banks are offering, there must be a market for it.

Perhaps this is because North Americans have become obsessed with home improvement. So obsessed, that Canacord Capital Corporation, Canada's largest investment dealer, performed a study that revealed it's become the continent's prime hobby. It has invaded television airwaves with shows like Trading Places, Trading Spaces, While You Were Out, Divine Design, Bob Villa's Home Again and Homesense.

In Canada, home improvement magazines have outgrown its once small section on the rack with a mounting number of publications like Canadian House and Home, Canadian Interiors, Metropolitan Home and Style at Home - as well as the many home décor sections now found within magazines like Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Toronto Life and Cottage Life. In 2005, Canadian House and Home readers alone spent $804-million on furniture, $264-million on carpeting, $169-million on drapery and $127-million on bedding and bath supplies featured in its magazine.

Toronto markets are on to the trends attracting furniture, décor shops and designers from all over the country.  As well, there are a growing number of interior and industrial design programs being offered at colleges and universities. In terms of trade shows, Toronto hosts the Metro Home Show, the Interior Design Show and the Fall Home Show . What's curious is that the term 'interior designer' wasn't even heard of a generation ago.

Canacord Capital Corporation recent study that says the steady and powerful trends in home improvement and renovations are driven by an aging housing stock, increases in personal disposable income and the transformation of North American dwellings into "cocoons of tranquility, comfort and pleasure."

Some experts say the home improvement trend is growing in the post 9-11 world, as people are focusing on what's most important to them: spending quality time with friends and family. And the home improvement industry is reaping the benefits. "Cocooning means that people are choosing to stay at home, so improving the natural quality of their environment is next on their list," says architect Jim Lehvoen of Dream Homes Group. "They're typically investing more money into their surroundings." More money is right. In 2003 alone, the renovation sector brought in $28 billion and, according to Clayton Research, "both cyclically and structurally, the renovation market is poised for further growth ahead."

The bullish renovation market can partly be attributed to homeowners avoiding the stress of moving. "It's more economical," says David Levy, owner of Toronto's Precision Kitchen and Bath. Instead of spending money moving and still not getting exactly what the home owner wants, Levy says people are investing in their current homes instead. "Many people are happy with where they live, they love their established neighbourhoods - it's just elements of their homes they don't like. If home owners renovate the right rooms, the return on their investment can be plentiful. In fact, kitchens and bathroom renovations add value to peoples' homes. Brenda Anderson of Harbour Kitchen and Appliances says. "A kitchen renovation will give them back 93 per cent of their investment when they sell their homes. They may be spending it one year, but they will get that investment back when they sell."

Another factor driving the renovation boom is activity in the resale market. Older homes in the city core with greater potential for renovation are much sought after by potential home buyers, especially since it eliminates the stress of commuting. Renovation projects in these homes are particularly extensive, aimed at modernizing the home's features or customizing them to the new owner's tastes. The past three years have all been record-breaking years for the Toronto resale market, with more than 220,000 homes changing hands; which explains why renovators are busier than ever.

"Even owners of new homes contribute to the renovation market," Mark Parsons, president of Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association says. "The typical new homeowner spends about $10,000 in the first year of occupancy building decks, finishing basements and purchasing everything from lawn mowers to snow blowers."

But home improvement projects aren't always about the money. For many, it's a confidence booster as well. "We show customers how to take on these sorts of projects," Helen Downard of Home Depot says. "People feel better about saying they did it themselves, not to mention the money they'll save." Stress relief, smart investing and confidence building - all without leaving the house. As long as interest rates are low, the home improvement market will continue to sizzle.

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Call Bill Rundle for an appointment, free estimate or just to ask any questions.

416-473-5662