Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Power of Small Communities

The old saying “Small Town, Big Heart” has always rang true in my hometown of Port Dover. But not only Port Dover, our entire County is always so generous to give, to share, and to support.

Over the years I have planned many events. From figure skating carnivals and baseball tournaments to buck and does and charitable fundraisers. I have never once been disappointed in the residents and merchants in our great community. They are always willing to sponsor or to donate and help make any event a success. 

But I have three amazing stories about support offered to individuals and their families, above and beyond all the charitable events our locals sponsor and support, that I would like to share with you.

About 10 years ago, when I worked at the local grocery store, I got to know this family really well. Their daughter was a few years younger than me and she was very sick with Lupus. The family had so many medical bills, and car expenses from taking her to doctor after doctor, and I wanted to help. So, I rallied the staff at the store to volunteer their time and some high school girls to help too and we threw together a weekend car wash and barbecue. We were able to raise enough money to help them purchase a hospital bed for their daughter to have at home and new tires for their vehicle to get them to and from the hospital safely every few days.

Needless to say, the support and generosity of the community was amazing. One person even donated $100 just because. Didn’t buy a burger or get his car washed, just wanted to help. Shortly after this event (9 years ago as of February 11, 2013), the mom donated her kidney to her daughter. Today they are both are living happy and healthy and still here in Norfolk County!

Back about 3 years ago, a very dear family friend battled cancer and beat it twice. But the stress on the family from medical bills and travel expenses was immense. So, once again, the Community pulled together to help raise funds to assist the family.

We packed the place to capacity and beyond, had tons of local musicians volunteer their time and talents, amazing door prizes and even better silent auction prizes…all donated from business and locals just wanting to help someone in need.

Unfortunately, our friend once again faced the battle with cancer another two times, and lost that battle in January of 2011. The day we said goodbye to our dear friend is one I will never forget. The local community centre was once again packed to capacity. The love and support that was shown during his benefit to help the family with their debts, was once again present during their time of mourning.

A few months later, the family began planting a farm in which their son had ordered the products for the previous year. Family and friends and a few volunteers that no one really knew, went to the farm to plant their sons dream. All in a days work here in Norfolk County!

Most recently I was told of another friend who was suffering from a very rare disease. After battling cancer and being cancer free since January 2012, he was diagnosed with a very rare blood disease.  Friends informed me that his medical insurance would no longer cover his necessary medication, an extreme monthly expense that very few of us could ever imagine. So, they have decided to hold a benefit for him to help him and his wife and their 15 month old son, be able to pay for this needed medication. They asked for any assistance anyone could give.

Immediately I made a few phone calls to some local volunteers and organizations that are always willing to give. And without question they were on board. Once a facebook page was started, all kinds of people started donating amazing prizes and asking where they can donate to the cause. Again, Norfolk County took my breath away!

Donate for Duke (#donateforduke on twitter) is going to be a huge success, just like the past two events I mentioned, and all because of the kindness, selflessness and generosity of our small community.

So, when people ask me how I can live in the “middle of nowhere” or without all the amenities of the city, I will always think of these three examples of why Norfolk County is forever my home. You’ve probably heard it many times before, but it’s so true…HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS! And there is a lot of heart in Norfolk County.

For more information about Donate for Duke or to donate to the event, you can contact me at any time. The facebook event page can be found at:!/events/543007429073256/?fref=ts or you can chat with them on twitter using the hashtag #donateforduke

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

HELP! I'm Buying my First Home and I Don't Know Where to Start!

Today’s blog post was inspired by a friend of mine who contacted me about buying a house.  She told me she had no idea where to start or what to do or how it works and asked if I could give her some guidance to help her and her boyfriend purchase their first house.  So what better way to help them and help other first time home buyers than to create a blog of my recommended steps to the home buying process.


Everyone is excited about buying their first home.  But during all the excitement you must remember that the bank is going to weigh in on what you purchase, or shall I say how much you spend?!?  The first thing you should do is contact your mortgage broker or banker to get what is called a “preapproval”.  The preapproval will tell you IF they will lend you money, and if so how much they will lend you.  This number is important because it will determine what price range your REALTOR® should look in when trying to find the right home for you.


Although you won’t know exactly what dollar amount you will require for a down payment until you know the exact purchase price of the home you are buying, it is important to ensure you have a savings to make the down payment.  A minimum down payment of 5% is required to purchase your first home.  If the down payment is an issue, you can talk to you bank or mortgage broker about a “gifted” down payment, should you have someone willing to give you the money for a down payment.


When purchasing a house, there will be other costs related to your purchase.  There will be legal fees (contact your lawyer for an estimate), there will be moving cost, mortgage insurance, home insurance, home inspection fee, there could be fees for transferring utilities for a new home into your name and you may need new furniture and appliances for your new home.  Consider all of these items and set aside funds to ensure they are available when the time comes.


After getting your “preapproval”, take your monthly income and start subtracting your monthly expenses.  Items such as: heat, hydro, water, sewer, telephones, internet, cable/satellite, groceries, gas for the car, a little money for some entertainment, and any other monthly expense you may have such as a car loan or student loan.  Some of them may require some “guestimates”.  From there determine how much you have left. 

In your preapproval you should have received you a monthly mortgage payment amount.  Looking at what you have left and the amount they gave you, can you afford the “preapproved” purchase price the bank is willing to lend you?  If not, be prepared to lower the price you are willing to pay for a home.  Too many times we see people strapped after their home purchase and no money to travel or go out for a nice dinner.  Leave yourself some room and be comfortable with your monthly expenses.


Start your home search by creating your “must have” list.  These are things that you cannot live without.  So for example – must be in town, have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage, a basement (finished or unfinished) and a gas fireplace. 

Then create your “wish” list.  For example – would like an ensuite bath, Jacuzzi tub, hardwood flooring, fenced back yard, and deck on the back.

When you start working with your REALTOR® you can provide them with this list to help them find your dream home!


A local REALTOR® is your key to finding the right home, finding it quickly, and being well represented in your purchase.  Many people believe they must call the REALTOR® who has the property listed for sale.  This is not the case.  Any REALTOR® can sell you a property listed for sale on the MLS® system.  So find the REALTOR® that suits your needs.  One who you trust and have confidence in.  Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their experiences and get to know them to ensure they will be working hard on your behalf. 

Your REALTOR® will do a search of the MLS® system and provide you with a list of homes that match your “must have” list and hopefully even your “wish list”.  Then, you are able to look at them online, view additional photos, and narrow down the search results to the ones that interest you most.  Then start the viewing process!

From there, you are in good hands.  Your REALTOR® will guide you through the rest of the process.  Once you find your dream home, your REALTOR® will help you with all the formalities.  They will provide guidance as to finding a home inspector, getting home insurance, confirming your firm financing approval, assisting you in finding a lawyer, and sending all the documents to your lawyer in order to complete the transaction with no hiccups.

Your REALTOR® will also negotiate all agreements of purchase and sale on your behalf, representing your interests in the purchase.  Your REALTOR® can help you determine the appropriate purchase price for the property based on comparable sales, and offer suggestions for items you may want to include in your purchase price such as the homes appliances.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you aren’t sure you understand what is happening.  The home buying process includes a lot of paperwork and signing of contracts.  Your REALTOR® is there to help you understand what you are signing and to include conditions or clauses to protect you in what is likely the biggest purchase of your life at this point.