Posts Tagged ‘property features’

Need More Kitchen Space? Amazing Space Saving Ideas You’ll Love

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Need More Kitchen Space_ Amazing Space Saving Ideas You'll Love | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamMost people dream of a spacious kitchen where they can cook with friends and throw the finest of dinner parties, but not everyone can have the ideal cooking space. Big houses are often fitted with an island and plenty of cupboard space but life in a small home or an apartment often comes with a much smaller kitchen. If your house in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton region is a little bit too cozy, here are a few simple ways that you can find a bit more space without having to find a new place.

Purchase a Rolling Cart

One of the biggest parts of cooking comfortably in your kitchen is having the stretch-out space for preparation so that you can do all of the things that go into making a fancy meal at once. If counter space is at a premium, you might want to consider a roll away cart that you can use for those moments when you’re really in need of little more room in the kitchen. Whether you use it once in a while or every single day, a stylish cart is a great way to maximize space.  When the evening is over, the cart can simply be rolled away.

Get Creative with Your Storage

If you have a small kitchen, you’ve probably kept your pantry items to a minimum and scaled back your cooking accessories, but there are other means of storage besides the shelves. Instead, think about installing hooks or small racks above your counter so you can use your wall space for storage. You might even want to consider purchasing items that have magnets, or a knife rack that you can attach to your kitchen cupboard to avoid using the space a butcher block takes up.

Consider Installing a Lazy Susan

The biggest grievance associated with an undersized kitchen can sometimes be the massive storage space that is lost to the corner cabinet. Instead of having to push all of your kitchen items to the back of the cabinet where you’ll likely never use them again, consider a Lazy Susan. Whenever you need an item, you can simply spin the shelf instead of having to reach way in the back in the hopes of finding what you’re looking for.

Think of Your Dishware as an Accessory

It might seem like you should store all of your kitchen items in the kitchen, but there’s no reason you can’t get creative about things. If you have any side cabinets or closets where you can store less used items, like fancy dishware or a popcorn maker, you might want to place them there instead. You might even want to consider dressing up nearby cabinets or shelves with nice glassware or dishware so your fine items can reside somewhere outside of the kitchen!

If you’ve purchased Parkland County or Spruce Grove or Stony Plain real estate and you’re working with a cozy kitchen, it might seem like it’s cramping your style. However, simple measures like looking at your storage options and purchasing a roll away cart can make cooking a little bit simpler.

If you happen to have any home-related questions, I’m always happy to help! Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Aging in Place

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

If the phrase “aging in place” is new to you, it probably won’t be for long!  I predict in the next few years, we’ll be hearing this phrase a lot.  How does it apply to those of us living in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton areas of Alberta?   

Aging in place means stayinAging in Place | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynamg in our homes as we get older, and adapting the home to meet our needs as we age.  For most of us, aging will bring about certain predictable physical changes, such as diminished eyesight and hearing or decreased mobility.  Some people will elect to move to accommodate these changes, whether to a one-level apartment-style condo or to some kind of retirement lodging.  But most of us want to stay in the familiar surroundings of our well-loved homes as long as we possibly can.  And that may mean renovating our homes to make them as functional as possible.  Other terms often used for homes that have been modified to accommodate special needs are “universal design” and “barrier-free  homes”. 

Many of the features of a typical modern home (such as an open floor plan, especially one where the main living areas – kitchen, living room, master suite, laundry room – are on the main floor) work well with the concept of aging in place.  Other features, such as hardwood flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, and venetian blinds instead of draperies, are less successful.  Those hard surfaces often don’t help a home’s acoustics, and a hard and slippery floor can be treacherous for people who are unsteady on their feet. 

When we think about accommodations for seniors, things such as grab bars in the bathroom, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts or even elevators may come to mind.  But there are many other simpler and cheaper changes that can have a huge effect on our comfort and safety.    

Eyesight and Lighting.  Adding more lamps and upping the wattage of light bulbs throughout one’s home can make a big difference in improving visual perception.  The most important areas needing better lighting are hallways and stairs.  Consider also changing the contrast between light and dark areas in a room in order to make things easier to see.  A monochromatic bathroom may be artistically beautiful, but if there isn’t a clear demarcation between the white tub and the light-colored floor, someone might have trouble judging where one ends and the other begins, resulting in a nasty fall.   

Furniture.  Consider replacing hard-edged glass coffee tables with dual-purpose softer-edged ottomans.  Consider also replacing squishy upholstered pieces with those that provide more support, making them easier to get into and out of.  Rearrange furniture so that there is plenty of room to maneuver around individual pieces (especially if wheelchairs and walkers will be used), but also place furniture in such a way that people will be sitting closer together and/or directly facing each other to aid hearing. 

FlooringCarpet is easy to walk on and safer if falling may be an issue.  But carpet may not be the best choice if walkers or wheelchairs will be used.  The best multi-purpose flooring may be non-slip tile throughout the home.  If tripping isn’t a concern, area rugs can add soft support as well as visual interest and contrast between dark and light.  Just be sure that the edges are well taped down. 

Monitoring and Assistance.  If you live alone, you probably have a support network of people to call in an emergency and you no doubt have a telephone or cell phone in easy reach at all times.  You may have an arrangement with family, friends or neighbors to check on you each day.  Perhaps you’ve considered a service such as Lifeline that connects you to 24-hour emergency monitoring via a bracelet or necklace style communicator.  While none of these things relate directly to home modifications, all of them contribute to keeping you in your home. 

The website contains a wealth of information about aging in place.  Particularly helpful is a Home Assessment chart that matches home modifications with a specific physical infirmity.  Most of the suggestions below are from that chart: 

Limited vision:

  • Edge of counters a different color than the top
  • Edge of each step is a color that stands out
  • Contrast colors between floor and walls
  • Stairs are well-lit
  • Increased wattage of light bulbs
  • Lights in all closets
  • Outside walkways and entrances are all well-lit
  • Stove controls clearly marked and easy to see
  • Stove has big numbers that can be seen from across the room
  • Stove uses different colors to tell which parts are hot
  • Under-cabinet lighting over kitchen counter

Hearing impairment:

  • Increased volume on phones
  • Smoke detectors have strobe lights
  • Furniture arranged to facilitate hearing
  • Soft surfaces to improve acoustics
  • Ultra-quiet dishwasher to reduce background noise

Balance and coordination problems:

  • Bath seat in tub or shower, or walk-in shower with pull-down seat
  • Bath tub with transfer bench
  • Temperature controlled shower and tub fixtures
  • Rounded counter edges
  • Grab bars near bath and toilet
  • Handrails extend beyond top and bottom of stairs
  • Stairway handrails on both sides
  • No stairs to bedroom or bathroom
  • Phone in bathroom

Limited reach:

  • Hand-held shower in bathroom
  • Electrical outlets are 27” above floor
  • Light switches at 42” instead of 48”
  • Cabinet shelves no more than 10” deep
  • Closet organizer or Lazy Susan to reach belongings
  • Closet rods pull down to comfortable level
  • Kitchen and closets have pull-down or pull-out shelving
  • Upper kitchen cabinets 48” from floor
  • Cook top has easy-to-reach controls at front
  • Microwave oven no higher than 48” above floor
  • Oven doors swing to the side
  • Side-by-side refrigerator
  • Lowered kitchen counter tops
  • Sink controls on the side
  • Front-loading washer and dryer

Poor hand and arm strength:

  • Automatic garage door opener
  • Easy to open and lock doors and screens
  • Cabinets and drawers have D-shape handles
  • Doors have lever handles
  • Counter tops smooth so heavy pans can slide across them
  • Heat resistant counter near microwave oven
  • Push button controls on appliances
  • Garbage disposal or trash compactor to reduce trash
  • Rocker light switches
  • Sinks with lever faucet handles
  • Special hardware to make drawers slide easily
  • Spray hose to fill pots on the stove
  • Dishwasher 8” from floor

Trouble bending:

  • Elevated toilet or toilet seat
  • Lower kitchen cabinets 6” above floor
  • Sink no more than 6” deep
  • Carpet is low pile and firm pad
  • Clutter and electric cords are out of pathways
  • Counter top that can be used while sitting
  • Doors are wide enough for a walker to get through

Trouble walking and climbing stairs:

  • Driveway smooth but not slippery
  • Floors are smooth and slip-resistant
  • Knee space under sinks; can sit while washing
  • Knee space under stove; can sit while cooking
  • No area rugs
  • Ramp to front door with handrails on both sides
  • Stairs have slip-resistant surface
  • Thresholds on entry doors no higher than ¼ inch.

Uses wheelchair:

  • Peep hole at low  height
  • Lower window sills especially for windows on the street
  • Hallways, doorways and closets wide enough for wheelchair.  Doorways 36″ wide with off-set hinges on doors
  • Appliances have controls at the front
  • Can use counters, sinks, stove top while sitting
  • Can wheel from car to front door and then inside; no steps
  • Ramp to front door with landings at top and bottom
  • Can wheel to bedroom, bathroom, kitchen
  • Pathways clutter-free
  • Enough floor space near doors to move wheelchair
  • Roll-in shower with multiple showerheads and/or way to transfer to tub
  • Space to transfer from wheelchair to toilet
  • See all above sections 

If you decide to remodel your current home, remember that you probably won’t have to make all of the modifications listed here.  Instead, focus on those of most benefit to your individual situation and make other changes as the need arises.  

Other resources:

See also this article by Mike Holmes:  “Renovate now so that you can live well later“.

Are you looking for a “universal design” home that will allow you to age in place?  I would be happy to help you find such a home!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.



Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow protected from fire is your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area?  You have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers but should you do more? 

I recently watched a disturbing YouTube video entitled The Co-operators and the Guelph Fire Department Sprinkler Demonstration sponsored by The Co-Operators Insurance company and the Guelph Fire Department.  In the video I learned that deaths from fire occur most often in the home and usually when people are sleeping.  Those most affected are likely to be small children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 60.  It’s one thing to read in the video that fire departments typically respond in as little as 10 minutes but that conditions during a fire can become unsurvivable in under 2 minutes.   It’s a very different impression to watch the video and see the destruction and horror caused by a fire, how quickly it can spread, filling a home with toxic fumes and smoke, and how devastating the damage can be.   

The purpose of the video was to point out the difference sprinklers can make in saving lives and protecting property.  According to the video, damage in a sprinkler-protected home is generally 71% less.  Insurance claims in sprinkler-protected homes run around $1000 compared to $15,000 in those without.  Even more important than the decreased property damage is the life-saving aspect:  an 80% reduction in injury and death in a home with sprinklers. 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s website  has similar information:  “Most people don’t realize that 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home.  They usually happen at night when people are asleep.  People also do not understand how fast fires spread and how they can go from a tiny flame to total destruction in as little as three minutes.  Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving people time to escape.” 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, based in the US but with Canadian partners, reports statistics similar to those in the video.  The website also contains a wealth of other information and answers to questions people might have about home sprinkler systems:

  • Fires kill more people in the US every year than all natural disasters combined.  And 80% of those fire deaths occur in the home.  When combined with smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers cut the risk of dying by 82%.
  • Fire sprinklers can save money for developers, builders, homeowners and communities.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.  Sprinklers cause much less water damage than fire hoses.
  • Sprinklers are activated by high heat so sprinklers throughout a home are unlikely to go off.  The website notes that 90% of all home fires are contained with a single sprinkler.
  • Accidental discharge of sprinklers due to defective equipment is extremely unlikely.
  • Homeowners need not worry about the aesthetics of a sprinkler system as the hardware in a home system is small and easily concealed.
  • If installed in a new home, the cost may be about the same as an upgraded carpet, or about 1 to 1.5% of the building cost.  This cost may be offset over a number of years through lower insurance premiums.
  • Home fire sprinkler systems can be retrofitted into existing homes. 

In light of recent house fires in our province that caused tremendous damage and loss of life due to current new homes being built very close together and with flammable materials, the cost of installing a sprinkler system (running about $1.65 per square foot in the US for new home construction) seems well worth it.  I urge you to view the Co-Operators video  to get a feel for the true calamity of a fire in the home, and visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more information about home sprinklers.  You can never be too safe! 

See also my blog articleFire Safety in Your Home”.   

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.




Carpet or Hardwood?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Carpet or Hardwood? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamIf you are thinking of replacing the flooring in your Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home, you’re not alone!  Should you make the leap from your old wall-to-wall broadloom to the currently popular hardwood?  Should you replace all the carpeting or keep some in selected areas of your home?  Here are some points that might help you decide.


Carpet Pros

  • Warm, comfortable and insulating
  • Sound-absorbing (might therefore be a better choice in high-density living situations such as condos and the like)
  • Easier on the feet
  • Often less expensive to purchase, and easier, faster and cheaper to install
  • Can be installed anywhere in the home.
  • Many choices in colors, textures, fabrics

 Carpet Cons

  • Feels “dated” to many people.  Home buyers today are looking for modern finishing.
  • Carpet is seen as negative to indoor air quality.  Even frequent vacuuming doesn’t remove dust, dander, allergens. 
  • Professional carpet cleaning and shampooing can be expensive and disruptive.
  • Standard life is about 12 years before replacement needed.
  • Generally less accessible for wheelchairs and walkers, if aging in place or disabled family members are a consideration.

Hardwood Pros

  • Hard-surface flooring is currently popular and trendy.  Current thinking is that hardwood adds character and value to a home.  Seen as better for re-sale. 
  • Good for the planet:  wood is natural, sustainable, renewable.
  • When properly chosen, installed and maintained, will last a lifetime
  • Easily cleaned and maintained with vacuum and dust mop.  With felt protectors on the bottom of furniture pieces, easy for one person to move furniture for cleaning.
  • Excellent for those with allergies
  • Versatile decorative option; goes with everything.
  • Can be used “as is” or with an area rug on top to change the decorating or to add warmth and sound-absorption
  • Future flexibility: easy to install carpet or tile on top of hardwood (although why on earth would you?!)

Hardwood Cons

  • Noisy; not sound-deadening like carpet so sounds may echo.
  • Chilly on the feet, especially in winter.
  • New finishes do make hardwood more resistant to damage but not indestructible.  Care will still be required to prevent damage from dropped and dragged items, as well as from spilled liquids.  Most hardwoods can be re-finished and cost is comparable to replacing a carpet, but re-finishing usually takes longer than a carpet replacement.
  • Humidity levels need to be closely monitored.  In high humidity, improperly installed wood can expand and buckle.  Low humidity can result in splintering and breakage.
  • Can be expensive to purchase and install, especially if sub-floor required.
  • Can be slippery and therefore less safe for small children and seniors
  • Shows dirt readily.  Needs to be cleaned (vacuumed or swept and mopped) more often than carpet; at least every other day in high-use areas
  • May not be suitable for below-grade installation

A good article that compares the characteristics of carpet and hardwood is “Carpet vs. Hardwood – The Great Showdown”. 

A few other things to consider:

  • Many people are mixing up their flooring choices:  tile in kitchens and bathrooms for durability and ease of cleaning, hardwood in main-floor living areas for beauty, carpet in bedrooms for comfort.
  • Think about your lifestyle and how you use the spaces in your home.  Are shoes removed at the door, food consumed only in non-carpeted areas, pets house-trained?  If no, then carpets, which tend to get dirty faster and hold on to the dirt, might not be the best option for you.  Highly visible, high-traffic areas benefit from flooring that is durable and easy to clean and maintain.
  • Consider the kind of feel you want underfoot:  firm, glossy, sophisticated, or cozy, casual, barefoot-friendly.
  • When you replace the flooring, do it for your own use and pleasure but keep in mind that eventually you will leave your home.  Be aware that every change you make to your home will have an impact on its ultimate resale value and ease of selling, even if that sale is years in the future.

Let me help!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.



Pocket Offices: Family Central 2.0

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

A few weeks ago I posted a blog article called “Family Central” about carving out a family organization center somewhere in the family home to round up all the paper and paraphernalia associated with day to day family life.  Our lives in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton region just keep getting busier, don’t they?  And it seems to get harder all the time to keep track of schedules and corral all the clutter. 

A great article in the February 23, 2013 edition of the Edmonton Journal entitled “Tiny, perfect pocket officesconfirms the need for such a space in a family home and contains lots of valuable information and good tips about how to create and use these small but mighty work spaces.   Check it out! 

Looking for a home with something special?  Maybe I can help.  Call or text me 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Murder, Mayhem and Seller’s Disclosure

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

You found your dream home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton area, agreed to buy it, and received a glowing report from your home inspector.  After concluding the deal and moving in, you learn to your horror that your dream home was the scene of a violent murder!  This was not disclosed by the seller or the real estate agent who listed the home.  What now? 

Murder, Mayhem and Seller's Disclosure | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamA recent broadcast on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti got me thinking about problem properties.  Entitled “Stigmatized Real Estate and What Sellers Must Disclose”, the broadcast focused on properties where a violent crime, such as murder, was committed.   

As a prospective buyer of any property, how do you know if what you’re seeing and what you’re told about a property is the whole truth?  Well, the fact is, you don’t.  While there are rules about what a seller must disclose, those rules tend to be a little, shall we say, open-ended.   

Interviewed on the program was Barry Lebowa real estate broker and appraiser with a great deal of expertise in dealing with stigmatized properties.  He noted that these properties might be ones where a crime such as murder was committed, but could also be homes at the heart of any unsavory situation:  used as grow ops, contaminated by mold, asbestos, urea formaldehyde foam insulation and the like, infested by termites or rodents, subject to repeated flooding, etc.  I am also reminded of the recent cases in Calmar, Alberta where homes were built on top of decommissioned gas wells, leading to much anguish for the unsuspecting owners of those homes.  Mr. Lebow pointed out that very few jurisdictions in North America have legislation dealing with disclosure about property defects.   

So, what is a prospective buyer to do?

  • Be aware that a property inspection will only expose “patent defects”; that is, problems that are clearly visible, such as a cracked foundation.  A home inspector will not usually be able to determine “latent defects”, or those that are not immediately visible, such as a water leak that has been hidden behind new drywall, for example, or those situations I mentioned above.
  • Sellers and real estate agents do have an obligation to disclose “material facts” about a property, if known.  This is any information that a reasonable person would probably want to know about a property.  As you can see, this allows for a great deal of subjective interpretation and uncertainty.   Furthermore, this duty to disclose can obviously only be enforced if the seller and agent are aware of the problem.  A small town crime may well become a local legend for generations, meaning that every owner/seller will know about the incident, whereas in a big city, where memories are shorter, subsequent owners may be unaware of anything to be disclosed.
  • House hunters must take it upon themselves to tell their real estate agent not only what they want in a home, but also what they will not accept.  If they are squeamish about buying a home that has been the scene of a violent crime, then they must make their agent aware of this so that the agent can seek out any hidden history.
  • As a buyer, be prepared to ask lots of questions about any property you are considering for purchase, and take it upon yourself to learn its history.  It’s also a good idea to put those questions in writing, and insist upon a written response.  Talk to your prospective neighbors too!

If you do end up unknowingly buying a property with a secret past, what can you do? 

Backing out of the deal, or immediately re-selling the home are probably not options because of the expense involved, unless you are so spooked by the thought of living in such a home that no amount of money is worth the emotional toll.  It should also be noted that stigmatized properties usually see a decrease in value of 10-20%.  If you can be pragmatic about the unexpected surprise of owning a property with a past, consider ways you can change the property – cut down or add shrubbery, repaint or change the siding, replace the house numbers and trim, renovate the interior – to give it a whole new history. 

I’d love to hear your comments or questions about this article!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.


Something Extra to Sell Your Home

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Something Extra to Sell Your Home | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamYour Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or Edmonton area home is now on the market.  You’ve listened to all the advice and done everything you reasonably can to make sure it shows well.  You’ve thoroughly cleaned and de-cluttered, you’ve made all the minor repairs, and maybe you’ve even undertaken a few renovations that give a fairly good return on investment, such as repainting inside and out where needed.  As your REALTOR®, I’ll do everything I can to market your home [see my blog article on this:  So, You Signed the Listing Contract…]  But, is there anything else you can do to help your house sell fast and for a good price? 

Here’s an idea for something that’s a little unusual, and beyond what most people do.  Work with me to prepare a Question and Answer sheet about your home and neighborhood to leave in your home for visitors. 

Potential buyers are going to have questions about your property and its location so why not anticipate those questions and provide the answers as a unique way of showcasing your home and its value.  Some possibilities:

    • Your utility suppliers and the cost of utilities, together with your “utility site number”
    • Renovations and repairs you’ve undertaken – maybe include things such as contractors you used, dates, cost and details of renos (such as kitchen and bathroom re-dos, basement finishing, replacement of such things as shingles, flooring, windows), paint brands and color names or numbers, etc.
    • The appliances in your home – age, brand, warranties, etc.  (Remember to leave the manuals when you move!)
    • Shrubs and plants around your yard
    • What do you love about your home? 

What would potential buyers want to know about the location of your home?  Think about what drew you to the neighborhood and your community.  How about:

    • Nearby amenities, such as schools, parks, walking trails, convenience stores, gas stations, shopping centres, medical clinics and the like, plus distance to each
    • Appealing characteristics of your neighborhood, such as low crime, helpful neighbors, wide boulevard, quiet and privacy, or maybe close access to essential services, and so on
    • The community at large – for example, the website where a potential resident could learn about the makeup of your town, special features that make your community unique, such as its history, tourist attractions, famous citizens and so on. 

With so many homes on the market, it pays to highlight yours in a unique way, and have it stand out from the rest.  Together, we can get your home sold! 

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

House Hunting Tips

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

 | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHouse Hunting TipsWhether you are seriously in the market to buy a house in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region, or just like to look at pictures and dream, you might find an article about the HGTV show House Hunters informative and entertaining.  

HGTV show inspires tips for real-life seekers(published in the July 28, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal, and other newspapers, as well as online) is a tongue-in-cheek commentary by columnist Mary Beth Breckenridge about her addiction to the TV show House Hunters, in which she notes that buyers seem to toss their common sense when viewing property for sale.  Here is what she advises would-be home purchasers:

“-Granite countertops do not make a kitchen. Yes, they’re lovely, but maybe you should open the drawers to make sure they don’t require the kind of force that dislocates elbows, and turn on the faucet to verify that the water flows in more than a trickle.  Oh, and by the way, there are other kinds of countertops. Very nice ones, in fact.

– Location, location, location. It didn’t become a real-estate cliché without good reason. You can replace carpet and reconfigure rooms, but that freeway noise? You’re stuck with it.

– For the love of God, price a couple of cans of paint before you reject a house over the blue in the baby’s room.

– You might want to think twice about going right from an efficiency apartment to a McMansion. Furniture costs money, you know.

– Five bedrooms for two people? Really?

– Two-storey great rooms look dramatic, but check the heating bills if you live in Minnesota.

– Don’t give the yard short shrift. It takes hours to knock down a wall but years to grow a tree.

– After a few months of two-hour commutes, you’re going to kick yourself for choosing the sparkly new Colonial on the outer reaches of exurbia over the fixer-upper 10 minutes from your job. Even if it does have hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.

– And remember what I said about countertops? Ditto appliances.” 

So, what do you go for when you’re searching for new digs?  Are you one of those people who falls for something shiny, or can you look beyond what’s pretty (or, for that matter, what’s not so pretty) to find what’s practical?  Home stagers exist for a reason, and it’s the wise buyer who is able to resist their tricks!  Learn to distinguish what you absolutely must have from what would be nice to have.  Separate things that can be changed (paint color, counter tops, appliances, other decorative items) from those that can’t (street on which the home is built, its orientation on the property, other permanent construction details).  Do this and you’re sure to find the right home that you’ll be happy to live in for a long time.   (See also my blog article from April 5, 2012 entitled “That Perfect House”.)

Still a little confused about what to look for?  Let me help you.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Build Your Home Around Your Passion

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Plenty of people in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area operate businesses out of their homes.  I’ve written before about the need to sometimes modify a home in order to pursue personal activities that go beyond what a standard house can accommodate (see my article entitled “Hobbies and Your Home” ).  I saw this principle in action recently.

Last Christmas, my daughter Devan gave me a gift certificate for a cooking class, and on Sunday June 12 the two of us spent 4 very enjoyable hours at the home of Kathryn Joel in southwest Edmonton taking part in the preparation of an Italian farmhouse feast.

Kathryn’s commitment to good food goes well beyond mere nourishment, as her website Get Cooking  points out:

“Kathryn Joel is a passionate foodie whose love of cooking has taken her around the globe exploring diverse culinary traditions.  A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu London, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge and expertise of global cuisines and cooking methods.

 Kathryn has combined her culinary expertise with her commitment to uncomplicated, approachable cooking, by bringing Get Cooking to Edmonton.

 During her years working with food, Kathryn realized that with some basic cooking skills and a good local knowledge of where to source the right ingredients, anyone can bring flavours from around the world into their own kitchens.  And as a member of Live Local Eat Local Kathryn aims to support Edmonton’s local producers and suppliers by focusing on the use of fresh and local ingredients in her classes.”

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers

Four other students joined Devan and me in listening to Kathryn’s passionate and rapid-fire explanations, stories and instructions, watching as bread dough was miraculously transformed into heavenly smelling and delicious tasting Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Foccaccia with Sage, and participating in the creation of a marvelous meal from appetizers through dessert.  My job was to stir the risotto (Risotto with Asparagus), a chore that required a little more patience than I have, so I was happy to hand my spoon off to another student.  I watched with some anxiety as Devan wielded Kathryn’s razor-sharp kitchen knives chopping the roasted sweet peppers.  We learned a number of cooking tips, like how to tell with the stretch test if bread dough is ready (you should be able to stretch the dough until it is nearly translucent but doesn’t tear), or the poke test (poke a finger in and the dough should spring back), or just where to break the tough end off an asparagus stalk, or how to keep the bright green in cooked asparagus by plunging it into ice water, or where in Edmonton and area to buy the best ingredients like the freshest chicken and highest-quality balsamic vinegar.

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Risotto with Asparagus

After several hours, the feast was ready:  Crostini with Roasted Sweet Peppers; Caprese Salad; Foccaccia with Sage; Risotto with Asparagus; Chicken Roasted with Porcini Mushrooms and Potatoes; Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar, and we were delighted to enjoy the results of our work, along with some very good wine.

All of this activity took place in Kathryn’s beautiful purpose-built kitchen, designed to accommodate up to 8 students around an enormous granite counter that housed a sink and fridge.  Her kitchen contained other items not normally found in an average kitchen:  2 ovens, a warming tray, a sub-zero refrigerator, and more.  I know that kitchens sell homes, and I know many buyers who would be thrilled to have a kitchen like Kathryn’s.  In her case, the kitchen is a requirement of her business, and just happens to also be an incredible addition to a lovely home.

Build Your Home Around Your Passion | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Operating a home-based business often means finding novel ways of blending home and work equipment and activities so that one doesn’t disrupt the other.  You may also find that your business requires special permits and licensing from your municipality, as well as special insurance.  Should you decide to renovate your space, as Kathryn did, to accommodate your business needs, you may want to consider the impact of such a renovation on the ultimate resale value of your home.  In the end, if your business is your passion, your home may naturally evolve into a unique extension of this.

For more information about Kathryn Joel’s cooking classes, or to book a class, visit her website.  

Interested in property that could accommodate your home-based business?  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here

“Location, Location, Location”: What Does It Mean in Real Estate?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Whether you live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, you have probably heard the phrase “location, location, location” used in real estate and wondered why the need to state it three times.  It is repeated to emphasize its importance.  It is one of those things in real estate that just is, and when you ignore its importance you will likely regret it.

As a buyer myself, I ignored it twice in the last 30 years.  One of those times was when I remustered to a Structural Technician (changed trades) while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.  My first posting was to Wainwright, Alberta where housing was pretty pricey, so we decided to purchase a major fixer upper in Czar, Alberta (200 people, 10,000 head of cattle), 50 km south of Wainwright.  My thinking was twofold:  we could buy a house a lot cheaper in Czar, and this would be good practical experience to experiment with my new construction trade.  We could add sweat equity to this house, making a really nice home and still be competitive with the Wainwright market.

My wife Paulette and I spent the next 3 ½ years gutting the house, including the interior walls, kitchen, basement, lighting, electrical…  In the end the house turned out beautiful.  But when we got posted to the north end of Vancouver Island, no one wanted to buy the house, because we could not compete with the buyers’ desire to live in Wainwright.  To make a long story short, we rented the house to the only person who applied, and that person trashed the house.  I took time off, came back to Czar, fixed the house up for sale and put it back on the market, selling it for what the market would bear. The lesson here:  Buyers will pay a premium to live where they want to live. 

"Location, Location, Location": What Does It Mean in Real Estate? |Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry Twynam“Location, location, location” usually means attractive neighbourhoods close to schools, hospitals, and facilities for entertainment, recreation and shopping.  It can mean proximity to a lake or backing onto a park, green space or golf course.  Homes in undesirable locations might be next to commercial/industrial buildings, beside railway lines, under flight paths, or in neighbourhoods with high crime rates.  Also included are economically depressed areas, where neighbours show zero pride of ownership in maintaining their homes and yards.

Although you will pay a premium to buy in a desirable location, the payback is well worth the extra cost.  Desirable locations sell quicker, usually appreciate at a greater rate, and are likely to sell before less desirable locations even when the market is slow.

From my past experiences, if budget is an issue (and when isn’t it?), I would settle for a smaller home located in a desirable location, later moving up to a larger home when I could afford it.

Looking for a great home in a great location?  Let me help!  Call me at 780-910-9669, email me at, or contact me here.

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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