Author Archives: Kevin Stokes

3 New Year’s Resolutions for your Home

Each new year we set personal goals and resolutions; however, have you ever thought about setting some resolutions for your home?  Home improvement goals will make it more efficient, cleaner and a beautiful place to spend time.  As the premier real estate agent for all your NOTL real estate needs, I would like to share the following home New Year’s resolutions with you.

Take the Minimalist Approach

If you are feeling overcrowded in your home, disorganized or just want to reduce the amount of clutter, why not take a minimalist approach?  Over the course of a year (or many years) we tend to accumulate a lot of unnecessary items that can begin to take up the limited space in your home.  Set a New Year’s goal to either reorganize or remove all your excess items.  To start, make three piles that include:

  • A donation pile for the items that you are no longer using, have outgrown or just want to move on.
  • A throw away pile for the items that have either worn out, are broken or are no longer of any value or worth.
  • A recycle pile for the excess paper and electronic items or used batteries that cannot be put into a landfill.

Take the time to go through each room in your home thoroughly and be honest with yourself.

Here’s the Deal:

If you haven’t used an item in a year and it is not seasonal, it probably needs to be put in one of the three piles.

Go Green

A greener approach to your overall lifestyle is a great goal to set, not matter what the time of year.  A greener home will not only help you reduce your carbon footprint, but it may also save you some money in the long run.  Here are some very easy ways to become more energy efficient and save some money this winter.

  • Turn down the thermostat. Try turning down the heat when you go to bed or when you leave the house.  Even turning the temperature of your home down a few degrees will save you money on your next heating bill.
  • Turn off the lights in the rooms that you are not using. This simple tip will save you money and energy.
  • Turn down your hot water tank by a few degrees. You won’t even notice the difference and again, this simple trick will save you money on your next heating bill.

Set a schedule

Time management is always a popular New Year’s goal.  While you are setting schedules for yourself, why not set a schedule for your home as well?  A weekly cleaning schedule is a great way to designate family chores and keep your home in tip-top shape.  Try to break your home cleaning schedule into two parts:

  • Daily chores – tasks such as dishes, dirty clothes and hanging up or putting away clothes can all go under this list or schedule.
  • Weekly chores – vacuuming, cleaning the toilet and bathtub or shower, organizing or picking up a room and taking out recycling etc. can all go under this category.

By setting a schedule and creating lists, you should be able to enjoy a clean and well organized home.  Make it fun and make it an entire family activity.

This New Year’s make sure to set a few goals for your home – you will not be disappointed.  If you are interested in other New Year home goals or would like to see some of the exciting real estate properties that are available in the NOTL region, please contact me today.  I look forward to working with you soon.

Happy New Year.

3 Ways to Make Your Small Bathroom Look Bigger

You have finally found your perfect home equipped with the amenities that you have been looking for – except that the house has a small bathroom.  A small bathroom is not the end of the world, nor does it mean that you need to spend thousands of dollars to renovate.  As the premier agent for NOTL real estate, I would like to offer you the following ways to make your small bathroom look bigger.

Brighten Up

The fastest, easiest and most effective way to make your bathroom appear larger is to bring in as much light as possible.  Light, bright rooms always feel larger and more spacious than dark or drab ones.  Some great ways to brighten up your small bathroom include:

  • Add more lighting. Install some additional light fixtures to increase the amount of light in the bathroom.
  • Change the colour. Paint the walls and ceiling the same colour.  By choosing a light colour, you can make your bathroom appear far larger.  Multiple colours tend to chop the room up, making it feel smaller.  Dark colours just make the room feel smaller.
  • If you have windows, remove any curtains or blinds to maximize all of the natural light.

Mirror Mirror

Install larger or more mirrors in your small bathroom to create a bigger space.  Mirrors reflect light and this will make your small bathroom feel more spacious.  Mirrors are also the perfect way to enlarge your bathroom without overcrowding your walls.  When selecting a mirror, some things to consider include:

  • Look for a framed mirror. Frames can make a dramatic statement and tie your bathroom together.
  • Go less traditional. Choose a shape other than rectangular.  Instead, try an oval or circular mirror to add a touch of softness and sophistication to your bathroom.

Streamline Design

A streamlined bathroom is a more spacious bathroom.  Look to streamline your storage by keeping it as flush to the wall as possible.  Anything that sticks out or is asymmetrical will make your bathroom appear smaller.  Instead, use recessed shelving and medicine cabinets.

Remove clutter in the bathroom except for the most essential bathroom items.  This even includes the bathmat which will take away floor space and make your bathroom feel smaller.

Here’s the deal:

If you don’t need it, store it elsewhere in your house.

Raise your shower curtain bar to the roof to create the illusion of a taller ceiling and thus a larger space.  You can also do this with your window dressings, which will make your windows look longer and larger.

A small bathroom does not equate to a costly renovation.  Instead, get creative and use these tips to create a seemingly larger space.  If you would like any other tips on how to make your bathroom appear larger or are interested in some of the exciting, new NOTL real estate options, please contact me today.

Small Kitchen?  5 Ways to Make the Most of your Limited Space.

So, your perfect home has everything you have been looking for but has a small kitchen with limited space.  A creative approach to this problem will save you both the time and money of renovating your kitchen.  As the premier agent for NOTL real estate, I would like to offer you the following ways to make the most out of your limited kitchen space.

Think Vertical

The best way to create space is by going up!  Once you have filled up your kitchen cabinets, drawers and cupboards look at your empty walls.  Using your available wall space is an excellent way to get the most out of your limited kitchen space.

Think about:

  • Mounting magnetic knife holders above your kitchen counters.
  • Hanging pots and pans from a rack above your kitchen table or from shelving.
  • Hanging oven mitts and dish towels from rods, hooks or racks.
  • Storing spices, cookware and dishes on shelving.

By going vertical, you will be able to free up precious and limited counter space and keep it free of clutter and debris.

Go Big

Create the illusion of more space by adding some colour to your kitchen.  Pick an accent wall and paint it or hang a piece of your favourite art.  A stylish, large mirror is another great way to open your kitchen.  Give your small kitchen a bit of personalization and maximize that limited space.

Shed Some light on it

If you are looking at upgrading any part of your kitchen, upgrade your lighting.  A well-lit room not only makes it appear larger, it also creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.  Try to find lighting that provides a nice sunlit glow that will add an invigorating feeling to your kitchen.

Portable Options

A small kitchen does not mean a kitchen without a dishwasher.  Think about adding a portable dishwasher to your kitchen that can be wheeled into a larger room when not in use.  Another great option is a counter top dishwasher.  Either choice will provide you with the same time-saving convenience of a standard dishwasher.  Look around and find one with the proper dimensions for your kitchen.

Live the Island Life

A kitchen island is the most versatile kitchen tool for any space.  An island not only provides more counter space it also provides more storage.  A portable kitchen island can double as a bar at your next party and be moved to other rooms to free up much needed space.

A small kitchen should not be synonymous with a renovation.  Instead, get creative and look for ways to maximize the limited space.  If you would like more information on ways to get the most out of small spaces or are interested in some of the exciting new NOTL real estate options, please contact me today.

The Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

Now that you have found your dream home in the perfect neighbourhood at a price that you can afford, what’s next?  There is so much more to buying your first home than just the down payment.  As the premier real estate agent for Niagara on the Lake, I would like to share some of the hidden costs that are associated with a first-time home purchase to better prepare you for the process.

Prepare for the Unexpected

The down payment is just one of the many costs that is part of the entire home buying process.  Other unexpected or hidden costs that you will incur include:

  • Closing costs – such as appraisals, lender fees and lawyer fees. These fees are sometimes included in the overall purchase price, but make sure that you have included them in your budget if they are not.
  • Home insurance – you will want to insure your new home against fire, theft and other disasters. You will also want to insure your personal belongings.  Get a quote from your local insurance provider.

Another unforeseen but necessary cost associated with any home is hiring a home inspector.  They will be able to tell you if the home is:

  • Structurally sound.
  • Has any rot in the wood or under the siding.
  • The condition of the roof.
  • Any faulty or poor wiring.

Here’s the Deal:

Many of the major faults that a home inspector may find are not covered under your house insurance.  It may be a good idea to either renegotiate the purchase price or to walk away from the home and start your search again.

Services and Hook-Ups

Even after taking possession of your home, there are hidden costs.  The connection fees for your cable, internet and electricity need to be accounted for and part of your purchase budget.  Now that you are a homeowner, you will also be responsible for paying the property tax on your home as well as the services such as water or recycling and garbage collection.


It will cost more to heat and cool your home, so prepare yourself for larger utility fees.  This may come as a shock if you were renting and utilities were included in your rent.

Plan Ahead

When you are looking at homes, make sure include in your purchasing budget any renovations, repairs or landscape work that needs to be done.  You do not want to be house poor without the necessary funds to make your home livable.

Finding the right real estate agent is also a key part in understanding the true cost of purchasing your first home.  Allow them to help you budget for all the hidden costs.

If you would like more information about any of the hidden costs of first time homeownership or would like to see some of the new and exciting Niagara on the Lake real estate options, please contact me today.  I look forward to working with you soon.



Preparing Your Home for Summer

The warm days, the festivals and activities that abound in and around Niagara make summer a special time in the region.  You will definitely want to take advantage of all that Niagara on the Lake has to offer and want as much free time as possible to do so.  As the premier agent for Niagara on the Lake real estate, I would like to offer you the following tips on how to get your home ready for the summer so that your focus can be on the many exciting venues in the area and not on mundane housework and upkeep.


Air Conditioning Maintenance

Nothing will ruin your summer faster than a broken air conditioner.  Before the dog days of summer arrive, make sure that you get your air conditioner properly serviced to ensure that it is in good working order.  It is also advisable that you do the following maintenance:

  • Flush out the lines with a cup of bleach to keep them from getting plugged or clogged.
  • Clean or replace your unit’s filters.
  • Trim or remove all vegetation such as shrubs from around the outside portion of your unit. This will allow your air conditioner to properly breathe and not overheat.

Check Your Ceiling Fans

If your ceiling fans have a directional switch, make sure that the fan blades are spinning in a counterclockwise position.  This will allow the airflow to be pushed downwards rather than upwards and help cool your home.

The Right Thermostat

Consider replacing your traditional thermostat with a “smart” version.  A “smart” thermostat will not only save you money on your monthly energy bills, it will also allow you to cool your home more effectively and efficiently.  With a “smart” thermostat, you can divert air to rooms that are occupied and increase the air conditioning during the warmest parts of the day.


Green up your Lawn

It is never a bad idea to re-seed your lawn.  A well seeded lawn not only is aesthetically pleasing it is also a healthier lawn and will keep weeds at bay.  Less weeding means more time for you to enjoy the summer.

Here’s the deal:

When reseeding your lawn, do not forget to put down a thin layer of topsoil to protect the grass seed.  Keep your lawn well irrigated for up to 2 weeks to ensure proper seeding.

Mower Maintenance

Once you have re-seeded your lawn, you will want to ensure that all your yard equipment and tools are in fine working order.  Before mowing your lawn, be sure to:

  • Change the oil in your lawnmower.
  • Check and clean or replace your mower’s spark plug.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in your mower.
  • Sharpen your lawnmower’s blade.
  • Check your other yard equipment to make sure that it is in safe working condition.

This quick list of preparation tips will have your home ready for summer in no time.  A well-prepared home will allow you to spend more time enjoying the summer and less time doing household chores.  If you would like any more summer home preparation tips or are interested in some of the new and exciting real estate opportunities that abound in Niagara on the Lake, please contact me today.



How to Set a Renovation Budget

One of the fastest ways to increase the value of your home or to attract buyers is a home renovation. That’s the easy part, the hard part is setting a budget for your renovation and not going over it.  As the premier real estate agent for Niagara on the Lake, here are some tips on how to set a proper renovation budget and stick to it.

Understanding Percentages

A quick way to estimate and set a rough budget is to look at your renovation as a percentage of the total value of your home.

For example:

A kitchen generally accounts for anywhere from 10% to 15% of your overall property value.  If your home is worth $300 000, then your renovation budget should be below $45 000.

Here’s the Deal:

Kitchen renovations generally offer one of the lowest returns on your overall investment.  For every dollar that you spend your average return rate is 50 cents.  The highest rate of return on a renovation is a mid-range bathroom remodel.

Loan Options

Once you have made up your mind on the type of renovation you want and have estimated what it is going to cost, the next step is looking at various loan options.

  • Line of Credit – This can be a great way to pay for renovations and is quickly accessible. Talk to your bank about their interest rates on a line of credit and if you qualify.
  • Home Equity Loan – Often called a second mortgage. A home equity loan allows you to borrow a certain percentage of your home’s overall value.
  • Refinancing – Depending upon your current interest rate, you may want to think about refinancing your mortgage at either a lower rate or for a longer term allowing you to save for your renovation.

Regardless of what type of financing you choose, plan to give yourself a 10 – 15% cushion on your original estimate, this will allow for cost overruns or unforeseen expenses.

Shop Around

Take the time to talk to a wide range of contractors and make sure to get quotes. Be very specific about what you want done in your renovation and make sure that all the details, including the type of materials that are to be used are included in your quote.   Make sure to ask a lot of questions about the overall timeframe for the job, what type of insurance they provide and references from past clients.

Stick to the Game Plan

Although it may be tempting to add small remodeling jobs onto the planned renovation, try to refrain.  The fastest way to overspend on your renovation budget is by changing your mind or the initial renovation part way through.  If possible, stick to the original plan and quote.

A renovation can breathe new life into any room in your home.  It is also one of the most effective ways to increase your home’s value.  By setting a renovation budget and sticking to it, you should be able to enjoy your new home without breaking the bank.  If you would like more information about setting a renovation budget or how to take advantage of the red-hot summer real estate market here in Niagara, please call me today.




Cosmetic Improvements for your Home’s Exterior


Regardless of whether you are listing your home this summer or not, improving the exterior of your home is never a bad thing.  Chances are portions of your home’s exterior have been neglected and could use some attention.  If you want to take advantage of the red-hot Niagara on the Lake summer real estate market, then an appealing exterior is one of the best ways to attract potential buyers and get full market value for your home.

As the premier Niagara on the Lake real estate agent, I would like to share with you the following tips on how you can make the exterior of your home more appealing.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Perhaps the best way to improve your home is to give it a fresh coat of paint.  A freshly painted house gives the appearance of a home that is well cared for and makes any prospective buyer want to take a closer look; meaning a showing and even a potential sale.

If your home cannot be painted or you do not want to invest the time and money into this task, another option is to paint the front door.  If you really want to make a statement, choose a bold colour such as turquoise, yellow or bright red.  If you are looking for more of a sophisticated look, go with the standard white, grey or black.

Here’s the Deal:

A newly painted home also allows a potential buyer to cross that job off their to do list, which will free up money and time and make your home even more appealing.

Update the Patio Furniture

You can never go wrong with updated patio furniture.  Not only does new furniture make your home look more attractive, you also get to keep that furniture and enjoy it in your new home, so it is essentially a win-win situation.

This summer’s patio furniture trends:

  • Oversized, modern chairs and table silhouettes.
  • A citrus colour pallet with plenty of green tones.
  • Matching streamlined furniture sets to reflect your home’s unique patio and exterior.

Add to the ambiance of your new patio furniture with garden boxes, hanging flower pots, bright citrus throw cushions and blankets as well as trellises and planters.

Add Exterior Accessories

Adding some eye-catching exterior bling will make your home more appealing to a home buyer.  Additions such as trendy bronze or chrome house numbers will make any home shine.  Exterior home lighting is another thing that a potential buyer is looking for.  Outdoor lighting can highlight your home’s landscaping or new coat of paint.

A few added touches to the exterior of your home can go a long way on the Niagara housing market.  If you have been thinking about listing your home or would like more information on how to make the exterior of your home more appealing to prospective buyers, please contact me today.  I would love to be a part of your sales team.  I look forward to working with you soon.




3 Do’s and Don’ts for your Listing Photos

All successful real estate sales have a strong online listing portfolio. In today’s market, so many buyers find their potential homes strictly through online marketing, so your listing photos are of the utmost importance.  As the premier real estate agent for Niagara on the Lake, I would like to offer you the following do’s and don’ts when it comes to listing photographs.

  1. Do: Include Outdoor Photos

The gorgeous yards in and around the Niagara region are part of the allure and draw for any potential homeowner.  To give a prospective buyer a complete picture of your home, make sure that you include photographs of your yard and the exterior of the home in your listing portfolio.

  1. Don’t: Use Crooked Photos

When you are taking these pictures, double check that your roof is parallel with the camera’s frame.  You do not want a house that is sitting at an angle in your listing photos.  Other pitfalls to avoid when taking outdoor photos include:

  • Don’t have cars, trees or bushes impeding the view of your home and yard.
  • Mow the grass before taking pictures of your lawn.
  • Trim and prune all bushes, shrubs and trees so that your yard looks cared for.
  1. Do: Use a Bird’s-eye View

Many of the homes in Niagara have large yards, estates or water views.  I recommend that you include a bird’s eye view picture of your home to encompass any of these selling features.  If your home is located on or near water, the bird’s-eye view photo should allow any potential buyer to see where your home is in relation to the water.

  1. Don’t: Use a Fish-eye

Some people feel that a fish-eye lens makes small spaces look bigger.  This is simply not the case.  What a fish-eye lens does is it distorts the image and can make the image seem smaller.  If you are looking to create the illusion of space in a small room use a traditional camera lens and design tricks or different photograph angles.

  1. Do: Play up the Season

Pay attention to the season in which you have decided to sell your home.  Your listing pictures should play to that season and include subtle seasonal hints.  For example, if you are listing during the summer, include sunny photos of your backyard.  You may also want to use seasonal throws, blankets and pillows to give that added touch to your listing portfolio.

  1. Don’t: Overplay the Holiday Décor

Make sure that your seasonal décor does not dominate your listing photos, especially if you are putting your house on the market over the holidays.  No one wants to see how you celebrate Christmas in all of your listing pictures.

Here’s the Deal:

Make sure that all your listing pictures are eye-catching and showcase the openness of your home.  You want your listing portfolio to show off the lifestyle that your home offers, while at the same time allowing a buyer to envision themselves in your space.

These simple do’s and don’ts for listing photos will allow you to build a strong online marketing portfolio and have your home stand out from the competition.  If you would like more help on how to take great listing photographs or are interested in selling your Niagara home, please call me today.

A Spring Cleaning Checklist for Your Home

The trees in bloom mixed with the warm weather and longer days make spring in Niagara a special time.  Spring is also a great time to get to those cleaning tasks that you have been putting off.  Make sure to take full advantage of this season and give your home a proper spring cleaning.

As the premier Niagara on the Lake realtor, I would like to offer you this spring cleaning checklist.


Your kitchen may be the busiest room in your home and is always in need of a thorough cleaning.


A proper spring cleaning addresses more than your usual weekly clean.

Here are some cleaning suggestions for your kitchen.

  • Clean the inside and outside of your refrigerator and freezer. Make sure to wipe out the drawers and discard any freezer burnt food.
  • Polish the stainless steel in your kitchen. Use the proper cleaner to remove fingerprints and smudges, so that your stainless steel sparkles.
  • Degrease and clean the elements on the stove.
  • Clean your oven.
  • Wash and vacuum cabinets, drawers and shelving in the kitchen.
  • Mop the floors and scrub down the counters and island tops.


Once you have finished in the kitchen, shift your attention to your bathroom.  Keep in mind that you want to do a deep cleaning of this room, so take your time and be thorough.

  • Scrub the toilet, sinks, faucet and bathtub with the proper cleaners and a disinfectant.
  • Polish and clean the walls, ceiling and floor.
  • Clean the mirrors and windows in the bathroom.
  • Scrub tile surfaces with the proper cleaners as well as an anti-mold cleaning agent.
  • Clean the shower doors and apply a waterproof agent such as Rain X to prevent any water streaking or soap scum from sticking to the doors.
  • Wash rugs and towels or cloths in the bathroom.

Bedroom, Family Room and Living Room

Typically, your bedroom and living rooms are tidied weekly, if not daily (especially if you have young children) so these rooms should be relatively easy to clean.

  • Dust surfaces including ceiling fans, bookcases and shelves.
  • Vacuum and steam clean carpets, if applicable
  • Vacuum and steam clean upholstery.
  • Wash linens, throw pillows and bedding.


The Entire House

There are other cleaning jobs that may not apply directly to the previously mentioned rooms, but are important pieces included in a thorough spring cleaning.  These include:

  • Sweep and mop floors in your home. Apply a sealant or protective layer to flooring when you are mopping.
  • Remove and wash window screens in your home with warm water and a gentle detergent.
  • Wipe down walls and baseboards with warm water and a gentle detergent. Dry with a soft, clean towel.

These cleaning suggestions will have your home looking like new in no time.  A spring cleaning is not only an important aspect of a clean and healthy living space, it is also a great head start if you have been thinking about putting your home on the real estate market.  A clean home is a great first step when it comes to showing your home and ultimately selling it.  If you would like to know more about how to take advantage of the red-hot Niagara on the Lake real estate market, contact me today.




Tips for Buying in the Spring

Typically, the spring season offers buyers a larger choice and selection of homes, so if you have been looking to get into the Niagara on the Lake real estate market, now is the time.  I would like to share the following tips that will find you your Niagara dream home this spring.

Find the Right Real Estate Agent

When you are looking for that perfect home, it is so important that you find a neighbourhood specialist.  A great understanding of the local real estate market and knowledge of the town and its distinct neighbourhoods cannot be over-stated.  Make sure that your real estate agent:

  • Specializes in the area and has sold other homes similar to what that you are looking to buy.
  • Is well respected and liked by other real estate agents – this will open up a large number of properties to you.
  • Has a great sales record can be recommended by other buyers.
  • Is friendly, professional and hardworking.

Get Pre-approved

Before you decide to go house hunting, sit down with a local bank or lender and see how much you will be pre-approved for.  There is nothing more frustrating when you find your perfect home only to find out that it is too far out of your price range.

Find a mortgage number that you are comfortable with and make sure to not over extend yourself, so that you are house poor.  You want to enjoy your new home, not be stressed out each month by trying to make a payment that you can barely afford.

Be Prepared

Although the spring real estate market brings a larger choice and selection of homes, it can also bring a wider group of potential buyers, which translates into a more competitive market.  Make sure that if you find a property that you like, you are prepared to put in an offer and are prepared to pay list price for that home.  Try not to get hung up on the asking price, but rather focus on what the home is worth to you.

Here’s the Deal:

If you find your dream house at a price that you can afford it will not matter if you pay a few thousand dollars more or less for that home over the course of 25 years.

Focus on the Home

When you are buying a home, make sure to focus on the home and not the sale or the owner.  It is of no importance whether the home is a foreclosure, a short sale or being sold by the original owner.  Rather focus on the location of the home and how that home will serve your needs.

Niagara on the Lake spring real estate market is the perfect time and place for you to find your dream home.  If you would like to see some of the new listings that are available or are interested in living in the Niagara on the Lake area, contact me today.