Tag Archives: home

Monday, May 23 2016

So We Bought a Pre-Sale Condo in East Van


There’s a lot of talk right now about the fiery-hot, speculative, under-siege housing market in Vancouver, and for the first time in my life I’ve got skin in the game.

Last summer I had the overwhelming urge to buy an apartment, and after finding an agent and looking at three old apartments and one insanely-tiny new apartment (it had one storage spot in the entire “townhouse” and that was a shelf in the one closet in the one bedroom—not even an entryway closet for coats!) my Realtor recommended going pre-sale (buying on spec and hoping like hell you’ll like it) and we found a two-bedroom plus den. It had no presentation centre (“we’re passing on those savings to you, the homebuyer”) and one main rendering available for all floorplans to show what kind of condo to expect.

One of the older, totally lovely, apartments I had my heart set on (but no in-suite laundry, bike room or office space).

One of the older, totally lovely, apartments I had my heart set on (but no in-suite laundry, bike room or office space).

Advantages to buying pre-sale:

  1. Price. Because it’s not built yet, pre-sale condos are typically cheaper than what’s currently on the market. For example, in our price range there were a ton of ’70s-’90s one-bedroom apartments, but none right in our desired area of Mount Pleasant (damn that Bob Rennie calling Main and Broadway the new centre of town!). Anything that was affordable was, in a word, “risky.” Candidates for rain-screening, old places with wall-damaging saunas and decades of smoke in the halls, and who knows what other disasters lurking beyond an inspection and strata minutes. For a first-time homebuyer, I can’t afford to buy a place that’s about to be re-assessed for repairs up the you-know-what and tack on thousands of dollars to my mortgage. This brings me to advantage #2.
  2. Warranty. If you buy a new home, it has three different types of warranties on it, including a 10-year structural. I saw this one renovated place on Ontario and 14th, PRIME location, with this gorgeous big party-perfect patio right off the living room, but it was in a building that was old AF with single-pane windows, water-damaged paint on the outside and dank, ’70s carpets inside. Sans bike room tenants reportedly house bikes in their parking spot in front of their cars. Plus it smelled like smoke everywhere in the building. My aunt took one look at my hopeful “we’ll take it!” face and said it was an absolute dud that would cost me tons in future repairs. Note: When shopping for your future home and looking to make the largest financial investment of your life, it’s good to have one of these no-nonsense realists at your side.
  3. New new new NEW! I’ve never owned, I’ve always rented, and I’ve rented the oldest, most questionable, least street-legal spots in all of Vancouver, so to be in a place with pristine tiles and ledges that have never seen a spec of dust (let alone decades of renter neglect) is an absolute dream. Side story: I once rented a bachelor suite on Bute and Davie that was in this 100-year-old hotel (the yellow building by the dog park, movies have been filmed there and everything!). At first I was taken in by its old-timey charm, but there was a hole in my ceiling that used to POUR bathwater from the apartment’s shower above. I shudder to think of the black mold in that place. Happy my brother and I (both willing occupants for multiple years) got out alive.
  4. Make Money-Money. Buying something you can’t see is terrifying, but even in the few months my new condo building was open for sales, the prices went up 10%. So even if we hate our new place (fingers crossed not) we could always sell it and make a profit. Barring a tsunami, mega earthquake or the bottom falling out of the Vancouver housing market because of newly imposed restrictions on foreign ownership.
  5. New-Place Extras. Most of the old apartments in Mount Pleasant/East Van/Fraserview don’t come with in-suite laundry, nor do they have the space/strata say-so to put one in. A lot don’t have a dishwasher either. I currently live without both and struggle every day. Our new place HAS BOTH and will also have a patio (!!!!). It’s 3-feet deep, but STILL. Forgot to mention new place also has a bike room, so we no longer have to store our wheels in the apartment.
  6. Pet-friendly. I’m not sure if this is with all new builds, but no matter what our future strata decides in terms of rules, we’re allowed one dog (no size restriction) and one cat! The people we sell it to will inherit those same perks too, which is a good selling point. We’re also able to rent our place, regardless of strata bylaws, so it could always be an income property should we turn into mad housing ballers.
Goodbye communal laundry!!! Photo By Reni Fajarwati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Goodbye communal laundry!!! Photo By Reni Fajarwati (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are of course disadvantages to going pre-sale.

I have looked at so many apartments online that seem great, and then you look closer at the photos and you’re like, “Why did they put that pole there?” “Why is there a solarium between the living room and the view?” “Who thought that triangle-shaped rooms were a good idea?” I wouldn’t buy a new dress without seeing it first, so in that respect spending $300K on a pre-sale home is effing insane.

  1. Time. Time is money, and the minimum wait for a pre-sale is around two years. Construction typically won’t start until they’ve sold out or mostly sold all the units and it can also be held up for ridiculous unforeseen reasons. Breaking ground was delayed on our place for eight or nine months because of a hydro pole the city wouldn’t take down. Instead of moving in later this year, we’re looking late spring 2017.
  2. GST. For some reason, you have to pay 5% GST when you buy a new home. This sort of takes the edge off the savings you get from buying pre-sale in the first place, as it can be like $20,000. First-time homebuyers get some money back, but it’s like $750. What’s that pay for? A notary appointment? Half a rug?
  3. Fluctuating Specs. I was alarmed to hear from my Realtor that things aren’t built exactly to the floorplan. They can swap subway tiles for penny tiles based on availability, they can put in a sliding door instead of a swinging one and they can SHORT YOUR SQUARE FOOTAGE. Step into my nightmare for a minute: our new apartment’s living room is just under 10-feet wide. TINY. How can it be cool for them to build my condo and short me even a foot? Two feet? An actual shoebox. I would be able to lie down end-to-end and touch the walls. Realtor says it could go the other way, and actually get bigger. Ha! Snowball’s chance in hell.

The delay in time has also given me much more time to stress about whether or not we made the right decision, so to quell some of my fears, I thought I’d mock-up a virtual model. That post coming soon!

Saturday, May 21 2016

The KonMari Method (1 Month Later)


When I was in Tofino for a work trip back in April, I picked up this little number at a local bookshop. I had heard my co-worker talking about this best-selling “tidying” book before and the moment I held Marie Kondo‘s work in my hands—and this is so appropriate, as anyone who’s read it will know—I felt a zing 0_0. I had to have it! I sensed strongly, as I have with so many new book purchases, that it was going to substantially change my life.

The thing is, I have a history with clutter and holding on to every last thing I’ve ever owned.


Came home to find this “love letter” from my boyfriend. He’s such a saint to put up with my ways!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up basically says, if you love it (does it “spark joy?”), keep it. If you don’t, say goodbye. This yardstick is so simple and yet I’ve battled with holding on to crap I don’t like (just in case it someday proves useful) my entire life. She recommends holding every single last item in your hands to help you decide (which takes a bit of time). To do the whole method, which brings you in stages from clothing to books to misc. to papers to mementos took me a whole week off work, and I didn’t even start the photo/memento stage (maybe next year).


The book says to pile all your clothes (every last item!) in one spot and go through it piece by piece assessing for joy.

I LOVED the section on folding where you get to put all your remaining clothes away. The closet you arrange from left-to-right darkest to lightest (this actually makes a difference) and Kondo even has a special technique for folding dresser drawer items so they’re all easily visible.


You’re supposed to fold them so everything is standing up. It looks tedious, but once you do it, it’s done and when I’m feeling too lazy to fold things properly, I dump them on top and then there’s only a couple shirts/pants out of place and I fold ’em when I have time.

The Result: It really is amazing when the only clothes in your closet are your absolute favourites—same goes with books on your bookshelf and the decor in your house. I needed to go shopping right after, because I had chucked 90% of my office-appropriate attire, but an excuse to frequent 8th and Main is hardly a downside. It’s a month later and the years of journalism clippings/school assignments/craft supplies I got rid of haven’t weighed on me in the slightest, and my overall home is feeling lighter and brighter. Just need to get these five garbage bags of clothes out to a Big Brothers donation bin and I’ll be laughing (and back in boyfriend’s good graces).

I found this video really helpful when it came to folding (which is hard to describe in a book):

Tuesday, May 3 2016

Western Living: Todd Talbot’s Great Experiment


Photos by Janis Nicolay.

First of all, Love It or List It Vancouver host Todd Talbot is one of my favourite interviews because he’s always packed with hilarious stories (chalk this up to his background in theatre) and the tale of how his family’s master bathroom came in to fruition is a pretty good one. Instead of playing it safe, Talbot took a risk and went with stone cabinetry and wood countertops, something you can’t tell just by looking at the photo (yup, all that white storage? Caesarstone!). Breaking tradition meant charting new territory to make the design work, and you can read all about the ups and downs in the full story at westernliving.ca.

Saturday, August 3 2013

Towels to dye for

diy beach towel

Turn old or mismatched towels into a new set with one wash cycle (see my purple ones right) to use in the bathroom or take to the beach!

We’ve all got ’em: old discoloured towels that have seen better days (five years ago when you first bought them).

Especially if they are a lighter colour, they seem to pick up every mystery mark possible from rusty hook stains to bleach accidents.

However, you can erase this patchy history and make bath towels look new again using a reasonably priced dye kit or dye packet from your local art or craft store. With a quick dye job, unsightly towels (or mismatched ones you’ve inherited) turn into a fresh new set, once again worthy of hanging up in your bathroom (I am thoroughly enjoying my new lilac set, seen above).

Choose a bright colour like yellow, pink or orange (left plain or tie-dyed) and you can even use them as beach towels this summer.


  • fabric dye ($5 a packet iDye is my favourite! Available in Vancouver at Opus Art Supplies or Canada-wide at Amazon.ca.)
  • non-iodozied salt
  • washing machine or basin
  • gloves

How-to towel dye:

Directions vary depending on which iDye method you use (washing machine or stove top). If you want tie-dye towels, I do not recommend the washing machine method as elastics can’t stand up to the spin cycle.

1. Pre-wet towels.

2. Fill up your washing machine (or a large basin) with hot water and stir in the iDye packet until it dissolves. Add non-iodized salt (measurements change depending on the method).

3. Next add your towels and leave in according to directions.

4. Wash towels afterwards on cool (this extra wash is also important to keep any leftover dye from ruining your next laundry load) and enjoy your freshly dyed set!

5. Note: The iDye packets recommend washing machine or stove top methods, but you could also fill up a large basin and follow the same stove top method pouring in boiled water instead of heating on the stove.

6. Tip: wear gloves!

Sunday, September 23 2012

The DIY File: Hand-me-down handiwork

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Some undergrads, upon moving into their bedroom the first semester, may find themselves staring at a hand-me-down dresser with slight revulsion, wondering what it is they did to their parents to deserve this.

“Didn’t I just get into college? Don’t I deserve a sweet bedroom sponsored by the design geniuses at Ikea?”

The truth is, when it comes to furnishing the post-secondary apartment, a student isn’t allowed to be picky. If you’re in school, living away from home and paying university tuition, you’re already too expensive.

So that dingy brown dresser your parents have kept in the guestroom since the first time stirrup pants and crop-tops were cool? It’s all yours, kid. Like an adult chaperone at prom, this old-fashioned furniture with its dorky knobs and wrong-era wood stain is sadly cramping your decorating style. And no matter how hard you try to dress it up, it remains an anachronistic eyesore that makes the rest of your room look shabby and dated as well.

But fear not, young grasshopper. With minimal materials and some DIY guidance from North Delta’s Stephen Toplass (who upcycled this piece for his daughter), even this drab dresser can be Cinderella-ed in an afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to prep for this evening’s beer garden.


  • Sandpaper 150 grit
  • two quarts of paint (CIL Premium water base interior satin) approx cost $14 at Home Depot (used about 1/4 of the paint each)
  • Eight designer knobs (from Etsy.com at approx cost of $30.00)
  • small 3-inch roller
  • 4-inch foam paint brush from the dollar store
  • shelving paper for inside drawers, approx $6,
  • old rags

Dresser how-to

  1. Sand the dresser to remove any sheen from the old finish and any other imperfections.
  2. Use an old rag to clean and dust off the surface.
  3. Use the 3-inch roller and apply the base colour “Pillow Mint.” Let dry for two-to-four hours before applying top coat.
  4. For the top coat use the 4-inch foam brush and apply the dark colour “Lights Out.” This is where you can be creative and have fun — don’t worry about perfection. When applying the paint use light pressure strokes to create a streaking effect, allowing the “Pillow – Mint” colour to show through.
  5. Apply new designer knobs.
  6. Apply shelving paper inside drawers to give a new clean look.
  7. The whole project cost around $70.