Divorce and Real Estate Questions

January is a month of intentions, beginnings… and, divorces.

The first month of the year is often known as ‘Divorce Month’ — pandemic or not — and COVID, along with all the increased time it’s forced people to remain together under one roof, has likely only added to the number of people now seeking separation from their partners.

It makes sense in theory. Severing ties right before the holiday season isn’t always ideal if kids are involved; the holidays can put stress on already fragile relationships; December is a time of reflection; and January is a time of fresh starts.

This January, of course, COVID-19 continues — as it has done all year — to be a further factor.

The number of divorcing couples has increased since the early weeks of COVID, due to the pressure of being confined to the home together, which often compounds existing relationship issues. People have endured months of hardship — people losing their jobs, dealing with the challenges of working from home, home schooling and more — these issues will probably cause a further increase in the number of couples who are breaking up.

Of course, the initial decision to part ways, to separate — a divorce in Canada legally requires one year of separation, don’t forget — is only the first of a long list of decisions that need to be made. And what to do with a shared property is most often at the top of that list.

Misconceptions about divorce and real estate tend to focus on who is entitled to reside in the matrimonial home, who actually owns the home, and whether or not the home can be sold — all things that can vary depending on whether the couple is common-law or in fact married and what province they reside in.

The law treats common-law couples differently in terms of assets, including the home. As opposed to married spouses, who have a right to possess the matrimonial home that can’t be defeated without the consent of the other spouse or a court order, common-law status is only legally binding in British Columbia for the purposes of dividing property if the couple has lived together for more than 2 years. while, in some provinces like Ontario, common-law isn’t considered legally binding.

Check the provincial legislation on common-law status as the person registered on the property maybe able to mortgage, sell, or dispose of the home without the common-law spouse’s consent. On the other hand, regardless of whose name is on the official documentation and ownership for the house, as soon as a married couple share the home, it becomes property of both parties. It doesn’t matter if the home was obtained through inheritance, individual purchase, or familial loans — as long as partners shared the home prior to the date of separation, it’s considered the matrimonial home.

In general, the decision to sell the property is predominantly a financial one.

Sometimes, one party can buy the other party’s share in the matrimonial home so that they can remain in the home. Often selling the home is necessary, however, because neither party can afford to keep it on their own, or because one party refuses to sell to the party who is able to buy them out. In some cases, the sale is court ordered. It’s imperative that the parties have an accurate opinion of value for the subject property in all cases, but even more so when the home is to be purchased by either party.

The reality is that the matrimonial home is usually the largest asset the couple owns. The proceeds of the sale of that home is what is required for both parties to purchase or rent their own respective homes. The money they receive from the sale of the home may constitute the majority of the settlement.

So, what happens to the mortgage?

The mortgage is affected based on several factors, as well as the terms of the existing mortgage. Distribution of funds from the sale of the home may or may not be used to pay off the mortgage. Depending on where the couple is in the process of the separation, the funds may sit in a trust account until a final and complete separation agreement has been signed. In other situations, some of the funds or even all of the funds may be released.

Divorce-related real estate isn’t easy. There maybe power struggles between couples when it comes to listing and selling the home. There may be arguments about everything from list price, closing dates, the showing process, and how information is shared, to signage, marketing, prepping the home for sale, who to use as a lawyer for the closing of the transaction and more. 

One big thing to keep in mind, is that the implications of leaving the matrimonial home during separation can be enormous.

The general consensus is that unless you or your children are in physical danger, it’s best not to leave the home until matters are resolved. If you do leave your home, you are unlikely to be taking your children with you. This sets up a

de-facto parenting arrangement and the co-parent then becomes the primary caregiver of the children. While this isn’t irreversible, the challenge of trying to regain custody can be arduous and costly. Leaving the home and the kids may also place you in a position of having to pay spousal and child support right away.

Another thing to consider when selling your home in the event of a dissolved marriage is an element of “keeping up appearances” for prospective buyers to achieve the most lucrative sale. You don’t want potential buyers to think you’re desperate to sell, even if you are, and that they can subsequently purchase it for less. Keep the reason of the sale quiet.

You want to sell not only the home but the image of a happy home. No matter the situation, making the home look welcoming is important. A home that looks not only beautiful but also inviting and cozy is what you want to achieve.

So, maybe keep those wedding and family photos on the walls a little longer if you can.


First Time Homebuyer Mistakes That Could Cost You

Today’s mortgage rates are attracting new buyers into the real estate market. Low rates make your mortgage payment more affordable and drive up the demand for local real estate.

If you’re a first time home buyer, don’t let the house hunting FOMO push you into making any of these costly mistakes.  Here are some common mistakes you can avoid.

Mistake #1: House Hunting Before You Have The Mortgage Figured Out

There is no harm in searching online or checking out your local real estate, but if you go out and start seeing homes before you have strong financing, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. The house you see today could be sold tomorrow, so it doesn’t make any sense to fall in love with a home before you have financing. Make sure you know your budget and that you’ve spoken with your mortgage broker to get a preapproval for the amount that fits your lifestyle.

Mistake #2: Talking To Only One Mortgage Lender

Today’s mortgage rates are historically low, but that doesn’t mean that you should trust the first mortgage lender that comes to mind. You should do some homework and connect with a mortgage broker who can help you get approved for the best mortgage. Remember that the mortgage rate is just one part of the total cost of buying a home, and different lenders provide different levels of service and have different fees. Find a licensed professional that you are comfortable working with.

Mistake #3: Forgetting About Closing Costs

Purchasing a home has several other costs that won’t be as clear cut as the house price that you agree on with the seller. If you forget to budget for closing costs, you could run into a very stressful situation. Thankfully, first time home buyers can take advantage of rebates on Land Transfer Tax and other programs. However, the other typical closing costs include appraisals, lawyers’ fees, title insurance, and fire insurance. Every scenario is a little different, but plan to set aside 1.5% of the house purchase price for closing costs as a rule of thumb.

Mistake #4: Waiting For The Perfect House

Not to say you shouldn’t be picky for a house you love, but if you delay getting into the market while you wait for the dream home to hit the market at your price point, then you could be worse off financially. There is an opportunity cost to not being able to grow your equity. If you wait a couple of years while you search endlessly, a house that you liked may go up in price while you watch from the sidelines. Consider the benefits of building some equity for a few years until you have enough for the home you love.

Buying a home is one of the most significant financial transactions you will make. Don’t go it alone! I have helped many first-time homebuyers go through the process.


If you want to learn more about how to get into the real estate market as a first time homebuyer, contact me Nancy Bergman.


Winter Napping

This time of year we can always use a little extra rest. Make it easy with these ideas for daytime napping

Winter is a time of hibernation for many animals, and for Mother Nature in general — yet we’re expected to somehow keep up the same pace of life no matter the time of year. Is it any wonder, then, that winter also sees more of us becoming run-down? Let’s gave in to the urge to rest up and get cozy. Here are some ways to tap into the power of napping.

Grant Yourself Permission

If you’re in the habit of pressing on, even when you’re tired, it may help to formally grant yourself permission to take a catnap from time to time. In fact, if you have a pet, it wouldn’t hurt to take some napping tips from your furry friend. Animals are experts at falling asleep at the drop of a hat! Of course, we can’t ignore all our duties, but if you make time for napping a priority, you may find that the opportunities to catch a few extra, blissful moments of rest are surprisingly within reach.

See The Value In Napping

Sometimes knowing we could use more rest is not enough to make us actually prioritize it — that’s when it’s time to appeal to logic. Most of us have at least a sliver of time here and there when we could nap. The key is seeing the value in napping over all the other things you could be doing. Here are some of the benefits.

◦Catch up on sleep

◦Keep your strength up during cold and flu season

◦Reduce stress

◦Feel emotionally nourished

◦Wake up refreshed and ready to tackle your to-do list

Keep Napping Essentials Nearby

You may want extra pillows and certainly a soft throw or two to cover chilly legs. If light bothers you, toss a silky eye mask on top of the pile. And if you tend to be chilly, throw in a hot-water bottle as well. Stowed on a spare chair or in a basket near your favorite napping spot, these comforts will never be far when you feel your eyelids beginning to droop.

Find Some Warmth

A sun-filled window, a place beside a crackling fire and a cozy nook are all excellent spots in which to curl up for a long winter’s nap, no matter the time of day. Feeling warm, snug and safe is key to a relaxing nap. If lying in bed during the day doesn’t feel right, sprawl out on a couch, chaise or window seat instead.

Shut Down Electronics

One thing to avoid when winding down for a nap, or going to bed, is screen time. Doesn’t it seem like an “essential” email always pops up just when you were about to sign off? Don’t give your tech the opportunity to distract you from your delicious nap — move away from the desktop, close the laptop and put your phone away.

Ease Into Relaxation

Sometimes simply lying down for a nap is not enough to drift off. If you know you could use a nap but your body is resisting, here are a few things to try:

  • Sit in a sunny window or another warm spot for five minutes
  • Do a few slow, gentle stretches
  • Sip warm tea
  • Kick off your shoes and cover your legs with a blanket
  • Read a few pages from a complicated novel or a boring nonfiction book

Set A Timer

If you napped the afternoon away when you were meant to meet someone at a certain time, you may not be likely to take another nap anytime soon! If you have time only for a quick nap, set a timer on your phone and put it within earshot, but out of arm’s reach so you can relax, knowing you will get up when you need to.

Rise and Shine

Waking from a daytime nap can be jarring. Make the transition back into your daily activities as smooth and gentle as possible to maximize the benefits of your nap and boost your mood.

  • Sip some fresh water with lemon or hot tea
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Step outside or crack a window and take 10 deep breaths.
  • Grab a pen and jot down anything that sprang to mind while you were resting

Go ahead, don’t feel guilty take a cat nap and get refreshed.


How To Keep Your Holiday Plants

Whether you receive them as a gift or choose them yourself, living plants have become an essential part of holiday decor. Here’s what to do to enjoy your favorite gift and holiday plants well beyond the season.


No flower defines the holiday season like the cheerful poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). It’s known for its bright red “leaves,” which are actually bracts — although, these days you can also find them in shades of white, cream and pink, as well as bicolor versions. It’s also long-lasting. Given the right care, it often will continue to bloom until the beginning of spring. If you’re willing to do a little more work, you can also get it to rebloom for several holiday seasons.

During The Holiday Season 

Ideally, put your plant in a location that gets six to eight hours of bright, direct sunlight. It also can handle darker spots for a few weeks. Keep it out of drafts and cold spots, and place it where it won’t touch cold window glass. Daytime temperatures should be between 18.3 to 26.7 degrees Celsius.

Water thoroughly when the soil is dry to an inch or so below the surface, then allow the container to drain completely. If you can, provide additional humidity; setting it on a pebble tray is ideal. Don’t fertilize while the plant is blooming.

Rule Of Thumb 

Remove the wrapping around the container, cheerful though it may be, or at least poke holes in the bottom to allow water to drain. An exception would be materials that are naturally porous, such as burlap.

Post-Holiday Care 

Give your plant the same care as you did during the holidays until the blooms fade, usually by March. Cut the plant back to about 8 inches high. Cut back on watering at this time as well, allowing the soil to dry completely between waterings. You can keep your plant indoors or move it outside in late spring into early summer once nighttime temperatures have warmed up above 10 degrees Celsius. Put it in a bright spot that gets indirect light in the mornings and partial shade in the afternoons.

Resume regular watering when growth begins again, but be sure the container drains completely and the soil isn’t soggy. Feed with a balanced half-strength fertilizer every two weeks. Pinch back stems to keep the plant bushy. You also may want to repot the plant if it’s crowded. Bring your plant inside in fall, when nighttime temperatures fall to 10 degrees Celsius again.

The Trick To Their Red Colour 

Poinsettias are short-day plants and require an extended daily period of darkness over several weeks to trigger the change of leaf color from green to red. Place the plant in a location that’s completely dark at night for a minimum of 12 to 14 hours and with nighttime temperatures of 12.8 to 15.6 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have such a location or can’t guarantee it will remain completely dark for that long, cover the plant with a box or black plastic bag, taking care that the covering does not touch the leaves. During the day, provide at least six hours of sunlight and temperatures of around 21.1 degrees Celsius. Continue to feed and water regularly. Turn the plant every few days to encourage even growth.

After about 10 weeks to two months (or even longer), you’ll begin to see the color change. Bring the plant inside and continue watering, but discontinue feeding it until the blooming fades.

If you live in a climate where temperatures don’t drop below 10 degrees Celsius, you can plant your poinsettia outdoors. Choose a spot with fertile, well-draining soil that gets bright, indirect morning sun and partial afternoon shade. Follow the same watering and feeding schedule as you would for plants in containers. If your plant does not get the darkness required for the color change on the bracts, they will remain green, but you will eventually have a good-sized perennial shrub that’s ideal for a tropical-style garden.


The amaryllis (Hippeastrum) is rapidly approaching the poinsettia in overall popularity as a holiday plant. They’re one of the few forced bulbs that can come back year after year, so you can enjoy your amaryllis this holiday season and for years to come.

Forcing It To Bloom

Fill a pot with enough potting mix so the top third of the bulb will be exposed above the soil. Set the bulb in place, and then fill in around it with potting soil to hold it in place. You will probably also want to add a stake to support the flower stalk.

Place your bulb in a spot that gets bright, indirect light with daytime temperatures from 21.1 and 26.7 degrees Celsius. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, watering when the top inch or two of the potting mix is dry. Be careful not to overwater, and let the container drain thoroughly.

Once the flower stalk appears, fertilize every two to three weeks with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer. Turn the plant every two to four days to keep growth even.

During The Holiday Season

Keep your plant in a spot with bright, indirect light. Continue watering and fertilizing as you have been.

Post-Holiday Care 

Cut off the stalk once the blooms fade, but continue to water regularly. Feed once a month with a balanced fertilizer. Place the plant outdoors in late spring or early summer. Start by putting it in shade or indirect sunlight, then gradually move it to a spot where it will receive full sun for at least six hours daily. Water and fertilize regularly as you have been. You can also place the plant directly in the garden, away from other plants, once the soil temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius, then dig it up and repot it in late summer.

Stop watering and fertilizing in late summer, around August to September, and let the soil dry out completely. Remove any dead leaves, and bring the plant into a cool, dimly lit spot before your first frost.

To force the plant to rebloom, keep it in this spot for a minimum of six weeks and up to 12 weeks. Cut off any leaves that turn yellow and wither. Then begin the forcing process as outlined above. Don’t repot at this time, but you can replace the top inch or so of soil.

Holiday Cactus

Once known as Christmas cactuses, the term holiday cactus came about because you can have these plants blooming from Thanksgiving to Easter. The true Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) blooms in December, while the more commonly found Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata) starts blooming earlier. The Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri) blooms in spring. Fortunately, they require the same general care. They also make excellent houseplants during the rest of the year and can even go outside during the summer in colder climates.

During The Holiday Season 

Put it in a spot where it gets bright, indirect light — a west-facing window that doesn’t get direct sun is ideal. Water regularly, but allow the container to drain freely and the soil to dry a bit between waterings.

Post-Holiday Care 

Continue the same care while the plant blooms. You can move the plant outdoors in spring and summer if you live in a cold-winter climate or at almost any time in the warmest winter regions. Provide bright indirect light through spring and summer and into fall. Fertilize weekly with about one-quarter-strength fertilizer from spring through summer while the plant is growing,

Holiday cactuses are also considered short-day plants that are said to need a certain amount of darkness to rebloom.

In September into October, you can reduce the amount of water your plant receives and put it in a cool, dry spot, such as an unheated garage, where it will get at least 12 hours of darkness per day for about a month. If you can’t ensure 12 hours of darkness, place a box over it in the evenings to block the light. Be careful that the covering doesn’t touch the leaves or you may damage them. Once the buds set, increase the watering and bring the plant into a more brightly lit area.

These cactuses can also grow outside year-round in Zone 9 and above.

Living Christmas Trees

You can enjoy a living Christmas tree for several years. Choose a slow-growing or dwarf conifer that will do well in your climate zone. You can’t keep it indoors for long, but it can be brought in for brief periods for several years.

During The Holiday Season 

Choose a healthy tree in a 5-gallon, 10-gallon or 15-gallon pot. Because nursery pots aren’t very festive, simply slip it into a larger, more decorative container. Set it in a bright, sunny, somewhat cool spot near a window and away from furnace vents and fireplaces. Water regularly, keeping the soil moist. One trick is to place ice cubes on top of the soil and let them melt.

Trees don’t do well inside for very long. Plan on leaving them inside for five to seven days, with a maximum of 10 days.

Post-Holiday Care 

Move your tree outside to a sheltered location out of wind and sunlight for about a week. Water deeply, saturating the root ball, and lightly hose off or wipe off the needles to remove the dust. Once the tree has adjusted to outdoor temperatures, move it into a location in full sun and water regularly. Repot if it becomes root-bound.

Norfolk pine (Araucaria heterophylla), shown here, is a living tree option that can live indoors permanently. It is often sold as a miniature living Christmas tree at nurseries, home centers, florists and grocery stores but can reach up to 100 feet outdoors. Indoors it grows slowly but will eventually reach about 6 feet tall.

During The Holiday Season 

Set your plant in a bright spot, preferably a south-facing window, out of drafts and where temperatures won’t fall below 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 degrees Celsius). It loves humidity, so set it on a pebble tray. Water when the soil is dry to the touch and let the container drain completely.

Post-Holiday Care 

Continue the same care throughout the rest of the year. Feed weekly with a balanced quarter-strength water-soluble fertilizer in spring and summer; don’t feed in fall and winter. Turn regularly for even growth. If the plant begins to get leggy, provide more light and cut back on fertilizer.


How To Revamp A Dated Fireplace

You fell in love with your new home because of its commanding focal point: a cozy fireplace where you envisioned spending fall and winter evenings warming up by the fire. But what if you love the flames but hate the crumbling brick, the dated brass hardware or the dirty stone? Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to glam up a tired fireplace to suit your design style. Here are some tips–ranging from super-affordable to worth-the-splurge–to give your fireplace a much-need facelift.

Give It A Fresh Coat Of Paint

As long as your fireplace is in good shape structurally and is safe to use, the easiest and most budget-friendly option to transform both the tile and mantel lies in a can of paint. Painting a fireplace white can be transformative. White works best for a fireplace because it usually can be an extension of your trim colour.

Whether you go the all-white or all-black route, or you choose contrasting colours to make it pop, don’t forget to refinish your mantel, too.

If your mantel is made of solid wood, sand it down until any finishes are removed on the surface; this will help the paint adhere and last a lot longer. With your tile surround, be sure to use a primer before applying your latex paint in your desired colour.

To freshen up stone fireplaces, leave the latex paint behind. Chalk paint does miraculous things; you can create this multi-dimensional look that’s whitish-grayish instead of just a solid painted stone. 

Cover A Faded Fireplace With Another Material

For a mid-range budgetary option, consider refacing your fireplace. You’ll get a completely new look without the huge mess and expense of a total tear-down. Try cladding the fireplace in reclaimed wood or millwork to add a warm texture, or incorporate concrete to bring an industrial, contemporary vibe to the space. You can also purchase masonry veneers which look like brick or stone but are much thinner and lighter.  

When it comes to stone or millwork for your fireplace, call in the pros or someone handy. Stone and tile require a wet saw to cut, which can be tricky.

To cut down on costs, put up 12×12 tiles or an even border of stone around the fireplace.

A great DIY alternative, try using shiplap for the upper portion of the wall above your mantel. It’s relatively straightforward to install, and can easily transform a dated fireplace into something more modern and refined. Be sure to paint the shiplap and fireplace surround the same colour so that it flows as one cohesive unit.

If you go the wood route, consult your local municipality–most building codes advise against installing combustible material within six inches of a working fireplace.

Other inexpensive refacing options include drywall, ceramic or porcelain tiles, stucco, concrete, or veneered stones–all can be affixed directly to your existing fireplace for a simple solution.

Start From Scratch

If your fireplace is traditional and your overall design scheme is ultra-modern, a can of paint probably won’t cut it. Sometimes a sledgehammer is the only choice. 

Depending on your personal style, a full demo is the only way to go to create the fireplace of your dreams. Whether that be a sleek marble surround or farmhouse shiplap incorporated with a live edge mantel.

Other splurge-worthy materials include quartz, granite or exotic wood, as well as extending the entire fireplace up to the ceiling. You can also apply any of these tips to your outdoor fireplace, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

Give Your Fireplace Mantel Some Love

An updated fireplace won’t sing until you’ve also styled your mantel. 

Start with an anchor or large piece to ground the space and layer with asymmetrical vases and artwork. Elevate the rest of the mantel with stacked books to create visual interest and finish off with some fresh greenery to complete the look. Arranging a few picture frames along it, too.

Don’t be afraid to get a bunch of accessories; you don’t know what’s going to look good until you bring it home and you can always return the items.

You can also dress up your fireplace with a spiffy new screen, or paint a dated brass screen or hardware using high heat black paint. 

No matter what your budget or style is, there’s a fireplace revamp that matches, so have some fun with this important design element.

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