Tag: Real Estate

A Widow’s Perspective: Life without Your Life Partner

“My life is extremely full, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” – Kim

Kim Sutherland is a working mom with two grown boys, ages 22 and 17. Kim has enjoyed a full time career in the travel industry for 20+ years. About ten years ago she opened up her own décor business, as she always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and gain some additional income.

Kim has a busy schedule; however, she is careful to build in time for herself, her family, and volunteering. Kim fosters Labrador Retriever puppies for Dog Guides of Canada. She provides a loving home, follows specific training guidelines to prepare the dogs for their future “service” to a Canadian with a disability. All of the above keeps Kim very busy, and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

What many people may not know about Kim is that she is a widow and became one at a young age with two young children to care for. You can say that her world was rocked but how she coped is an inspiring story that I get to share with all of you as I interviewed Kim for this exclusive piece.

The timing of this article is extra special this week as September 10th is quickly approaching which is a memorable day for Kim. This date was when Kim and her husband, Randy were married and it is also Kim’s birthday. Therefore, this makes it a perfect time to share Kim’s story.

Tell me a little about what your husband was diagnosed with?

“My husband was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia, at the very young age of 39. It came out of nowhere, he did not feel well for three weeks prior to Christmas, needless to say it was shocking news, it rocked our world.”

Once you heard of your husband’s diagnosis and time to live. What did you do and how did you cope?

“My husband was given three months to live, at that time I was holding our six month old infant, Carter and  my other son Matthew (age five). We were living in Calgary at the time, both of our careers had taken us there. We loved being in nature, the mountains, all of the outdoor space and family friendly living. Our family members were all back in Ontario.

Once the doctor gave me the news, I immediately called my parents. My mom jumped on a flight to Calgary to come and help. Doctor’s told me to get help, get paperwork in order, he would die from this. What I struggled to understand, was how does this happen to a guy that was so fit, extremely fun and positive, always. We had everything going for us. I couldn’t believe it, but when the doctor sat me down and calmly explained to me how sick he was, and we were being moved to a terminal ward of the hospital within minutes of the diagnosis, I realized this is serious and happening fast.

“Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.”

Each day was tough, watching someone who was incredibly vibrant maintain his positive attitude and courage (during chemo, brain radiation, hair loss and a bone marrow transplant). To this day, I tell the boys, “Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.” Sadly all the drugs and great healthcare could not keep my husband alive, his body did shut down. We lost him on August 26, 2002. The boys were really young.”

After your husband’s passing, what did you do to help yourself and your children cope?

“I knew I had to continue to be strong, no matter what. I moved back (to Ontario) to be close to family and friends. I enrolled my boys in some activities and even when I had to do the 5 AM hockey practices, bundling an infant and my eldest into the car at that horrible hour on a Saturday or Sunday morning was not necessarily fun, but it was important. The social aspect was great for them and me! I also had the unwavering support of my mom and dad. Truly, my mom is my rock.

Moms are made of something we cannot describe. Somehow we pull energy and strength out when you really feel exhausted, but you get up and put on a smile for your child and that is what matters. You are their world. My mom did a ton to keep the house together, while I ran to/from the hospital. It was a very sad time, but I knew my boys needed me and I had to keep busy to cope. I also knew that my career and the people at work, were good for me. The boys and I did a lot of activities together such as reading, Lego, playing board games, crafting, setting up play dates with other moms and kids, making new traditions.”

What advice can you give a parent who has become a widow with small children?

“Keep positive! Keep their routine, be the parent you wanted to be with your partner/spouse. Don’t be afraid to seek out friends for a shoulder to cry on, or even get professional help to deal with the grief. Nobody knows what it is like until you are in it, so if anyone is not supportive, keep away from those people. Grieving is tough. I suggest you ask someone to take the kids one day a week so you can go do something for yourself. Go to the gym, or for a long walk (or run), meet a friend for a coffee, get a pedicure…you get the idea. It’s about your downtime to re-energize. Kids take a lot of your time and energy. Take a lot of pictures. I found when my husband was sick I didn’t take enough pictures. He didn’t want photos taken (of himself); however, my boys have learned a lot through the videos and pictures we do have.”

How did you do it all? How did you balance two young children, a career and a passion (staging)?

“I did it with the help of family and friends, which I am so grateful for. I love being busy, I don’t stand still often. I started Above & Beyond Décor, to have additional income but it also feeds my creativity. That is what fills me up. Staging is hard work, although it is fun too. You get to create, like a picture in a magazine. Meeting new people, building my business, planning for the future is important to me. I am an advocate for other women, letting them know you need a “plan” i.e. get your financials in order and be ready to take on anything. None of us really know what lies down the garden path, so best to have a plan and have passion.”

Tell me a little about your staging company.

“Above & Beyond Décor was founded as a result of my passion for home décor, floral design, networking and personal growth. I read about home staging and a course that was being offered by a North America staging professional. I decided that would be a great addition to my list of services. I enrolled in the course and became a Certified Staging Professional. Real estate staging is merchandising a property’s best features, understanding lifestyle selling techniques and targeting specific buyers. My friends and family kept telling me I had the “knack” a real talent, knowing how to style and decorate. In order to get that talent noticed, I offered to stage a couple of friend’s homes for free. Their homes sold in a matter of days (with multiple offers on the table), the realtors were very impressed. Soon, a number of realtors were calling me and my business flourished.

I work with a lot of local Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington real estate professionals, they call upon me to stage vacant properties as well as those lived in.

What makes a great stager? Testimonials and referrals. I am extremely pleased with my client testimonials. I often hear that they love my style, my approach (not intrusive), and I am very personable. Comments include: “Your work is amazing;” “Wow, I love how it looks now, I don’t want to move!” “We received multiple offers because of your staging!” or “I need to live like this in my new home.”

What made you decide to become a stager?

“I realized there was a huge opportunity in the market and this just seemed like a natural step forward for me. Realtors and homeowners appreciate when a home sells for top dollar, studies have shown that 65% of buyers prefer to pay more money for a “move in” ready home. Staging is huge now!”

If you could give a younger you some advice on parenting what would it be?

“Hmm, that is tough one. I do not have any regrets, very happy with the way things have worked out for me. I would say getting proper rest is key. Being a parent is fun, challenging, you will be juggling a lot of balls in the air, so when you don’t get enough rest or just need support – Ask for help! Most of us moms don’t ask – we try to be SuperMom and do it all.”

Anything else you would like to add for our readers?

“Melanie, thank you for allowing me to stage your home and for sharing my story on your blog. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mike and Nikki and seeing the smile on your face when you sold for top dollar! As for your readers, fellow mommy friends and family – I look forward to hearing from you. Someone you know might need a stager – that’s me.

Above & Beyond Décor for the ultimate first impression. Staging really sells! Please contact me at kesutherland@cogeco.ca.”

Special thank you to Kim for her time and inspiring us with her strength, courage and passion. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Kim on the staging of my home and to get to know her as a business woman, mother and as a friend.

Kim is such an inspirational person in every way possible!

Losing her life partner was tragic and yet she found the courage and love to cope. I have to admit that this was a tough interview for me to do without shedding tears but it shows you how life has many unexpected turns and we have to embrace and love what we do have in the present. Kim has reminded me how precious life and my life partner are. Thank you Kim and please keep inspiring all with your positive love of life!

I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity to share Kim’s story with all of you and I hope you have been inspired as much as I have.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga


6 Tips On How To Balance Work and Life

By: Christopher Toste

Originally Published Here.

These days, work-life balance can seem like an impossible goal to achieve and with technology making workers more accessible around the clock, it makes it even more difficult. So how do you achieve some balance?

There is no single right way to attain a balanced life as it is a personal decision how one combines their career, spouse/significant other, children, friends and self into an integrated whole. The key is to develop creative solutions that can help you balance the responsibilities and joys of your multiple roles in life.

Here are some of my tips that I use to help me achieve work-life balance.

Build a Support Network
When there is a mutual understanding of the demands of work but the ability to always make time for one another is very important to have in your network. Therefore build a great support network with family and friends.

Build downtime into your schedule & Get Organized
When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends, and activities that help you recharge. Set priorities, work smarter not harder, and delegate. By planning out activities can help balance out your work and personal responsibilities. It can also help keep you organized.
If a date night with your significant other or a softball game with friends is on your calendar, you’ll have something to look forward to and an extra incentive to manage your time well so you don’t have to cancel.

Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way
Even during a hectic day, you can take 10 or 15 minutes to do something that will recharge your batteries. For example, take a bath, read a novel, go for a walk, or listen to music. You have to make a little time for the things that ignite your joy.


Establish Limits and Boundaries
Boundaries and limits define how you take charge of your time and space. Without limits it can be difficult to say “no.” Remind yourself often that your boundaries are necessary for balancing work and life.

Enjoy Quality Family Time
Remember to enjoy quality family time when you can as there are no real work emergencies unless you work serving the community. Cherish each moment spent together and build a strong relationship with your significant other and with your children as they can be instrumental to your success.

Vacation or Staycation
It is important to take a vacation or staycation as it can help you recharge and relax from the hustle and bustle of work. If you can’t get away then plan some activities that you can do in and around your own city. Just having an escape from the daily work routine will make a difference in the way you feel.


These are some tips that I use to help me but remember everyone balances their life differently. One of my mentors gave me a great advice that I would like to pass onto all of you. “To have a truly balanced life, you must have goals for the following: financial, spiritual, physical and relational. These goals must tie in all aspects into your life.” Find what works for you and before you know it, you can achieve balance!

About the Author

With a passion for real estate and strong business skills, Chris hopes to establish himself as an authority in the Toronto Real Estate market and surrounding communities.

To ensure that client expectations are always surpassed, Chris has secured a team of professionals who share his uncompromising professionalism and integrity. As a full service brokerage, whether looking for a mortgage lender, real estate lawyer or a home inspector we have put together a group that can fulfill all our client’s needs. A strong focus on the customer is what differentiates Chris from the rest of the pack.

Toronto Real Estate, Houses for sale in Toronto, Toronto Condos, MLS Toronto, Toronto real estate listings, Toronto and Surrounding Area’s Real Estate






Putting the “Real” in Real Estate with Christopher

As a first time home buyer, it can be hard and complicated trying to understand the process and housing market. It can also be difficult to get the ‘real’ or reality of it all. This is why I asked some key questions to a trusted real estate agent with the expertise, Christopher Toste of Royal LePage Supreme Realty.

1. When someone is looking to buy a home, what should be their first steps? 

First things first, ask yourself are you ready to buy? Most people would say the first step should be to speak to a mortgage professional about how much home you can afford and get pre-approved, but I believe you need to really think through what your priorities are in the home and why you are making this investment.

During this process you will be working to keep your credit clean, saving for a down payment, learning how to manage debt and deciding on your needs in a home and what neighbourhood best suits you. Remember buying a home is an exciting time but also one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make. Surround yourself with the right professionals, don’t be afraid to ask questions and I guarantee it will make the process become a lot easier and more enjoyable.

2. How does the real estate market look right now? And the forecast for this year?

We ended the year very strong with a record year in sales. In terms of pricing, the average selling price was up 9.8% in 2015, according to TREB. As for a forecast, you can expect a steady increase for 2016 based on multiple factors; lack of supply drives up demand (population keeps growing and housing is needed), lending rates are expected to stay relatively low, and according to the experts there is no recession on the horizon for the GTA economy in 2016. For more market information feel free to sign up for a monthly update to help best prepare you for your purchase.

3. When is the busiest time in real estate?

The market is most active between the months of April-June. During this time, we have the most inventory and the buyer pool is significant. Some buyers have seen significant savings by buying during the months of January and February due to bad weather and sales cycle. Since 2010, homes in the Greater Toronto Area sold for an average of $43,000 less than the calendar year average.

4. How does the home search process work?

By this point you already know your affordability and are prepared to start the buying process. Congratulations – this is the exciting part! Your Realtor will be able to guide you through the process which includes: home search ->offer ->home inspection and/or financing ->closing. For more in depth information about navigating the world of buying a home in the Great Toronto Area visit my website.

5. When looking for a home, what type of questions should the buyer be asking?

When you first meet with your real estate professional be sure to express what your current and future housing needs are and what characteristics are important to you in a home. Here are some of the most common questions that I receive from buyers;

  • How much are closing costs? What is land transfer tax? How much?
  • Do I get a first time home rebate? How much? Is it instant or do I have to apply?
  • How much are the average monthly costs for utilities? What other costs should I expect?
  • How old are the major costs (roof, windows, furnace and A/C?
  • Is the water heater a rental? Are there any other rentals such as the furnace and A/C (This is becoming a problem in today’s market)?

6. How important is a home inspection and why?

A home inspection is an inexpensive way to discover the overall condition of the home. It is important to conduct a home inspection to avoid purchasing a property in need of major repairs which would be a costly mistake. In todays aggressive market I often see sellers and buyers skipping the home inspection to make their offer more appealing. Other options would be to conduct the inspection prior to the “offer date” or keep the clause for home inspection but lower it from 5 business days to 1-3 days.

7. Many people now want to buy and/or sell homes on their own. What are the disadvantages of this?

Just like any other service, you intrust the professional to do their job to the best of their ability. You would not try to fix your car if you were not mechanically inclined.

A Realtor will try to sell your home for the highest price, least amount of time and with minimum frustrations. In most cases, according the National Association of Realtors, private home sellers end up selling for 25% less and by the end 85% end up using a real estate professional to sell their home. Here are just some disadvantages that I find with private home sales;

  • Biggest disadvantage is the possibility of a law suit. Keep in mind realtors are insured and abide by ethics set out by CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association).
  • Lack of property exposure and limited knowledge of market and pricing. Most are undervalued.
  • Inability to market the property to the target audience. Unsure of who the potential “buyer” might be.
  • Must pay for fees upfront, where a Realtor only gets paid once they complete the sale.
  • Not your full-time job, are you able to; accommodate appointments, negotiate a sale, screen buyers, market property and much more.
  • Do you understand the “Agreement’? If not, you will pay high lawyer fees to view all documents.

8. What are the advantages of having a real estate agent help with the home search?

There are many advantages to using a real estate professional that you trust and that has a proven track record of success. A Realtor has access to exclusive listings, pricing history, MLS (we receive listings prior to Realtor.ca) and more importantly has experience negotiating the price of a home in a high pressure situation. Keep in mind this is our full time job and our goal is to provide our clients with incomparable customer service and help you find the home of your dreams. Check out my website to start your journey for the most exclusive up-to-date listings.

9. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to buy?

The best advice I can give to someone looking to buy is:

  1. Understand how much it will cost to carry a home not just a mortgage. Monthly costs you should expect but not limited too; utilities, property tax, rental items (hot water tank), and home insurance.
  2. Never go into the process with a timeline or urgency. Though the market is very aggressive I always tell my clients “cooler heads will prevail.” You may run into a situation during a negotiation or “bidding war” where emotions run high, but be willing to walk away. I am a strong believer that it may take a year, it may take a day but what is meant to be will always find a way.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

There are many topics we can talk about as Real Estate is such a fascinating subject and such an important aspect of our lives. Some topics that are relevant with today’s buyers/sellers are how to handle a multiple offer situation? How do the new down payment mortgage rules affect buyers? The list continues. Finally, before you begin any process find yourself a real estate professional that is knowledgeable of the market, that you trust and most importantly has a passion for buying and selling real estate. I hope the readers find this helpful and if anyone has any questions or need clarification they can contact me directly and I would be more than happy to help.

Christopher Toste

Christopher Toste – Real Estate Professional
Royal LePage Supreme Realty
ChristopherToste.com Facebook l Twitter LinkedIn



We hope this piece has helped you have a better understanding of real estate and like Christopher mentioned there is so much more to learn.

I want to take this time to thank Christopher for his time and professionalism on this piece as it is truly appreciated. In addition, I highly recommend him for your home buying and selling needs as he is a passionate professional who works hard, and goes beyond to find you and your family the perfect home.

– Momma Braga