The value of a home

My husband and I bought a monster house 12 years ago. It was an old Victorian style, double brick with good bones, but in need of repair. In the 60s it was divided into four apartments and no one had renovated it since. The yellowed shag carpeting had seen better days, and the white stucco walls and arched doorways had gone grey over time. It still had all the old plumbing and knob and tube wiring so needed desperately to be gutted and restored.

A house has a personality, and ours seemed to be like an old oak tree that had been made to look like a Christmas pine. It had a solid soul, but the renovations were horrendous. Our goal was to restore it to the solid home it once was. It was the perfect project for a newly married couple!

We decided to live in it and tackle one floor at a time. Both of us were working full time, so it meant spending our evenings and weekends toiling away on the house.  After gutting out all the apartments, we found signs of the original stairs that were located right where we planned to put in the main stairwell. We repaired all the old fireplaces, putting new liners in all and using old bricks from the original construction that we found hidden away to repair the chimneys. We managed to save all the original leaded glass windows, and searched salvage yards for old six panel solid wood interior doors to match the original doors in the house.

Between electrical, plumbing, tiling and carpentry, we found that only a few of the trades people we hired could deliver the quality that we wanted and so did much of the work ourselves. There were months when we were too busy with our jobs to do anything on the house, and with the demands of toddlers, there was a year or two when very little was done. Our 10-month renovation project took us 12 years! And now that it is finally done, it feels like we’ve reached the top of the mountain. We’re looking around and enjoying the view, thinking cool we did it… but now what?

I don’t think I can sit quietly in a huge house, sipping tea and eating bon-bons, or give up the confidence I get from building with my own hands. What many think of as menial work —painting, sanding, tiling — is my way of keeping grounded and in shape! Being able to see the work that you have done take shape doesn’t happen often in politics, and there is nothing like taking down a wall to let out a little frustration!

Although we have built many terrific memories in our house, it was the journey, not the asset, that created them. And so we decided to put our house up for sale and continue our journey.

I feel that we have lucked out when it comes to our real estate agent. We have listed with Cheenee Foster. She is with Slavens and Associates and is one of the hardest working agents I have ever met. Cheenee spent years staging houses and has an eye for design. But what I admire most about her is her drive. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and help, although she is always dressed to perfection. Watching her in an elegant summer dress and high heels as she set up my living room furniture, moving couches and chairs without hesitation, reminded me that women can do anything men can do — and we can do it in heels!

Cheenee spent a week helping me stage the house. From moving furniture to picking paint colour, she walked me through the process of preparing our house to sell. Few agents would invest the time that Cheenee gave to making sure our house looked terrific.  But, what truly makes her a top agent is her integrity. She knows that we aren’t in any rush to sell and has suggested that if we don’t get what we want, she’d recommend taking it off the market and trying again in the fall. I’ve bought and sold a lot of homes, and where most agents would try to coerce us down in price to make a quick commission, Cheenee sees the value in our property and in holding on for a better market if need be. What makes Cheenee Foster one of Toronto’s best real estate agents is that she puts her customers before her commission. So, if you are looking for a good agent to help you through the stressful process of selling your home, I highly recommend Cheenee Foster.

She’ll be hosting an open house at our home this weekend. Come out and meet her!

How tacky is it to sell things on Facebook?

We’ve all seen it.

“Hey, I was cleaning out my closet and itemised, catalogued, and photographed all of this stuff to be sold. Oh maaaaaaaan, there sure is some good stuff here!”

Maybe you’ve even been the one doing it.

“Hm, instead of donating all this old crap I could make a few quick bucks. Stacy did say she liked this top after all. And it was fifty bucks new when I bought it in 2009. I suppose there is no harm in making an album and selling a few things, right?”


My mother used to drag us around to yard sales on every spring and summer weekend looking for deals. On the right kind of day you’d see half a dozen just driving to the grocery store. We would stop at every single one and then stop again on the way back to get the things she wasn’t sure about the first time we were there.

There is a dignity associated with the yard sale. This is a family, couple, or person who has come to the end of their spring or summer cleaning and actually just has a bunch of stuff to get rid of. They’ve thrown it all out on the lawn and put a kid with a tin box on the hopes of scrounging up four dollars for their once priceless CD collection, or maybe a quarter for a Rocko’s Modern Life colouring book that is half finished.

By the end of the day the afternoon are mostly empty and you have to go knock on the door to get their attention. By supper time they’ve given up, folded up the card tables, and thrown everything left into a hamper with “FREE STUFF” written on a poorly torn piece of cardboard in front of it. Game over. They participated in the time honoured tradition of the yard sale whereby you are granted no more than eight hours a year in which you can shamelessly grub for money from your friends and neighbours for stuff that is worth little more than it’s kitsch value.

Although it exists in the digital world, Facebook peddling is still a violation of this ancient suburban rule.

Remember that one yard sale that was just a little ways out of town that would be going on all year? You stopped and looked a few times and it was the same old crates of coke bottles and dog eared Danielle Steele novels every time. The reason you felt uncomfortable at these extended yard sales, aside from the pitbull chained to the tree in the lawn, was because you already understood that they were violating this code.

In your mother’s generation it was Tupperware parties or AmWay that violated The Rule by trapping friends, family, and neighbours into situations where they felt obligated to buy something to avoid the risk of being rude to someone close. No one enjoyed this, save for perhaps the person without social skill who pinned them there.

Today we have Facebook peddlers to fill this role by trying to run their apartments as if they were stores. Let me be the one to tell you that whatever money you may gain is most likely lost tenfold in respect from your peers. If you need the money so badly you should try and sell it on Craigslist or at a pawn shop.

But they won’t give me a decent price for it on Craigslist or at a pawn shop. 

Then you can’t get a decent price for it, and expecting your friends to pay more doesn’t put then in a very high regard. If you can’t find a decent price for it then donate it to a non-profit drive like Goodwill or a local church

But this is too nice to be donated to some stranger.

Then donate it to your friends. In addition to saving your friends from feeling obligated or uncomfortable by seeing your used clothes tick by in their newsfeeds you’re saving yourself the social disgrace of being considered tacky.

Bottom line: If it’s still good keep it, if you can get a buck sell it to a stranger, if you can’t then give it away.