Photo by Bernard Hermant

Knock Knock?… No One’s Here

Toronto’s real estate market continued to slump in December.  Sales volumes fell by 50% compared to Dec 2021 as higher interest rates made affordability more difficult.  New listings were down as many sellers are waiting to see if consumer confidence improves in the spring.

On an annual basis, 2022 started off with a bang but sales slowed as the year went due to multiple interest rate hikes (seven increases in 2022).  Prices ended up higher as tighter supply provided price support.  Heading into 2023, there are more headwinds as interest rates will likely increase in January with the possibility of a recession looming as the Bank of Canada applies monetary policy to bring inflation from the current level of ~7% to its target level of ~2%.

Consider this newsletter a public service announcement to Toronto Home owners to make their Vacant Home Tax Property Status Declaration before Feb 2, 2023.  This yellow notice (is it a coincidence that it’s the same colour of sweat inducing parking tickets?) advises that starting in 2023, vacant homes will be taxed at a rate of 1.0% of the current value assessment (“CVA”) which is significantly higher than the property tax rate of 0.63% of the CVA.

According to the CBC, the city expects to raise about $66M per year.  With an average CVA of $695k, this means that the city believes there are 9,500 vacant homes in Toronto.  Given that there were about 28,000 sales transactions in 2022, the assumption is that there would be one vacant property for every three sales –  which sounds a little high to me.

While it has been said that taxes are the price to pay for a civilized society, I think many civilians would rather let someone stay in the dwelling for free before paying the government $500/mo (for the average Toronto dwelling).

Shen Shoots the Breeze

January is a good time to form new habits.

I’m hoping you’ll find these suggestions easy to incorporate. They are a compilation of various energy and money saving tips from periodicals as well as observing friends and family. Most of these items you have already and if you do consider buying, the total on this list shouldn’t add to more than $20.

  1. Reuse bags. Bread bags, milk bags can be substitutes for reusable ziploc bags or garbage bags for small garbage bins. I reuse dryclean bags as garbage bags by knotting the bottom.
  2. Use more rags, fewer paper towels. I’m not saying no paper towels—that takes serious commitment—just fewer. Cut up old shirts to make rags (just like grandma did!) – we use them to polish shoes or for deep cleaning chores. BTW newspapers make great wipes for window cleaning.
  3. Cleaning kitchen towels. My mother added baking soda to boiling water and plunged kitchen towels to rid them of their smells. This would extend the life of these germ-filled smelly towels.
  4. Reusing dryer lint. Use it as a fire starter. You can save your dryer lint in toilet paper rolls, store them somewhere dry, and use them as handy fire starters for the firepit you purchased during the height of the pandemic.
  5. Line-dry whenever possible. We started by air drying our dryfit athletic wear but now line dry most of our clothes. By the way, I detest rough crispy towels that have been line dried, so I usually fling those in the dryer on high for 15 minutes and then hang them to dry for the remainder. This still makes them soft.
  6. Get a set of dryer balls. Think about all the dryer sheets you go through doing laundry—did you know one set of wool dryer balls can do the same work (speed up dry time and fluff out wrinkles) without chemicals? And they last forever – I’m onto year 5 with the same set I purchased. My friend, Jeanie gave me a tip that I can add lavender essential oils to the dryer balls to provide a nice scent to the clothes.
  7. Shop second hand. Next time you decide you need something and are not in a rush to get it, peruse your local thrift store or online site (Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace) to see if you can find something used that works. I also love the Buy Nothing FB group where people in your community post items they are giving away for free.
  8. Use cold water and quick wash setting when washing your clothes. 90% of the time we use the quick wash setting and tap cold water. My mother taught me this. It’s not like we’re hogs rolling around in the mud and need a deep clean cycle all the time. Hot water actually sets stains, and cold water will get your clothes just as clean.
  9. Water it using used water. As in, the water you wash your vegetables in, or the water that collects in a bucket by the door during a thunderstorm are great for watering your indoor plants and herb gardens.
  10. Use your totes. That pile of free totes you’ve compiled over the years and always forget about? Toss one in your trunk and one in your work bag so you’re never at the grocery without it.
  11. Clean out and give away. All those great treasures can be sold or donated. If your vice is books – consider revisiting your local library or even picking up or dropping a book or two at those little free libraries you see in front of neighbours’ homes.
  12. Fill your dishwasher all the way before running it. And if you really can’t wait, run it on that “top rack only” setting that so many of them have these days, instead of doing a full cycle just for four wine glasses.
  13. Or run it in the middle of the night. Say what? Ever noticed that “delay” button on your dishwasher and washer and wondered why you’d ever want to use it? If you set it to start during your electric company’s “off-peak hours” (usually from 7pm to 7am), you’ll be reducing peak energy demand on the grid and saving 50% on usage charges.
  14. Use cloth napkins. My sister-in-law adopted this for her family of 6. Pro tip: Dark colors are easier to keep clean, and the bigger the napkin the happier you’ll be with it on your lap. (You’ll feel pretty fancy when chowing on that PB&J.)
  15. Plant herbs this spring. No need to buy parsley that had to be transported from a farm to your grocery when you can snip a few sprigs on the back deck. (On the kitchen counter by a sunny window would work, too.) I remember purchasing a parsley plant for $2.99 and probably saved over $10 by not having to buy the at the store. My tip is if you’re a novice gardener, start small – thyme, rosemary and parsley are the easiest plants to begin with.

Please send me your tips!

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