My Real Deal With Ferrero Rocher

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Without a doubt in my mind, whenever I am asked for my favourite chocolate, my answer had always been "Ferrero Rocher". My family and friends know better than to buy me a different brand.

For the longest time, I've been hooked on these chocolates. There's a bit of history there between Ferrero and I that I've always been too shy to tell. I suddenly feel like I'm going into a Flashback Friday or a Throwback Thursday when I know too well it's only a Wednesday.

Back when I was about 9 or 10 or 11 years old, there was this young boy who (said he) had a crush on me. Now I was flattered by the attention, but at that point in time, I was still a premature teenager. He wooed me for a small while (a summer, I think) and one of the first gifts that I got from him was a box of these gorgeously, symmetrically round-shaped, delicious chocolates that he got from....I can't remember where he went to now. His family had gone on vacation to this "I can't remember" place and he said he saw the chocolates and brought them back for me. Sweet...just like the chocolates. Well, he could've bought them at Duty Free Philippines, but as a young girl who never went anywhere, I didn't know any better. All I knew was that the chocolates were divine.

I still found Barbie more interesting though, but I devoured the chocolates in sweet secret pleasure.

And so as that summer ended, the wooing did as well. We rarely saw each other anyways so it was not hard to not be in contact with him.

And now, whenever someone buys me a box of Ferrero Rocher, it brings me back to the reminiscence of that summer. You see, it is now more a case of "I remember the chocolates and the sweet innocence of young romance that came with it, rather than the boy". And that's why for me, Ferrero Rocher always seemed the sweetest out of the whole lot of chocolates out there....because it held a special place in my heart.

Newcomer Stories: Getting Our Home Hooked Up

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Besides all that is involved in finalising the purchase agreement, there are still quite a few things to arrange before the actual move-in day. These things don't really have much to do with the purchase but more on how equipped your home will be after you move in. Take note that the following list applies to my experiences in Mississauga, and I am not sure if they could be similar in other places in Canada. Here are a few things to remember:

Water connection and waste management
The Region of Peel controls water connections in Mississauga. It is advisable to apply for your account at least a week before your move-in date. If like us, you've bought a resale home (meaning they are not newly built homes), the previous owner might have already informed the local municipality of their intention to disconnect. It is therefore important for us, as new owners, to apply for the new account so that there is no break in service. The water account will also include your waste management account. If you are a new owner, you will need your proof of new residence so you can get free garbage bins.

In Mississauga, Enersource takes care of all electrical needs of the residence. Like The Region of Peel, it is advisable to inform Enersource that you are taking over at least a week before your move-in date.

Enbridge Gas covers the gas distribution in Mississauga. Similar to the other two utilities place mentioned above, ample notice should be given to Enbridge to hook your connection up.

Cable, Internet, Phone, Security
There are really a lot of choices when it comes to these services. I'd probably fill up the whole blog and then some if I had to name them all. The two biggest TV service providers in Ontario are Rogers and Bell TV. They normally offer discounts if you bundle other services with them, like internet and phone or mobile services. They even offer security alarm services. I felt though that since they were the biggest players in the market, they tended to be a bit pricey. There are also the alternatives, the small players, if you want to shop around. You might have to chop the services up into different providers but that's just the way it is. I found that it was very difficult to compare services and offers. There's always something better that each provider has over the others, but then you can never get away from the bad stuff each provider has as well. For me, the choice here is personal. Definitely a "whatever you need or think you want" scenario and so your choice should reflect that.

Last but definitely the most important part is to arrange for a hauling truck to move your personal stuff. If you've got a friend who can lend you a truck for this purpose, then by all means, go for it. But if you're stuck, then there is always U-Haul. The rates are reasonable enough. You can check out the truck sizes that are available, what sort of extra services you'll need (like movers, packaging materials, etc.), how long you'll need the truck for, etc. It is all very flexible and easy to arrange.

I probably need to mention that all the above items can be applied for via the internet. For the utilities, I chose to do them telephonically since I had a few questions that I needed cleared up. But for U-Haul, it was a breeze. They'll confirm the availability of the truck one week before so you can be rest assured that you will be all set when moving day comes.

Newcomer Stories: Finalising The Home Deal

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Last week, I spoke about a big milestone with regards our new life in Canada. After months of searching, we've found our first home. But our closing date was still 90 days away.

3 months was really a long time. Like most people, I would have loved to have availed myself of my new purchase as soon as I bought it. There's nothing like the excitement over a new toy. But with homes, of course, it was different. We would need time to prepare to move in and the sellers would need time to prepare to move out. I couldn't wait for the day but I had to. There simply was no getting around it. I had to be content with just "watching" the house from a distance. I drive by the area every chance I get, just so I could get a look. It's kinda freaky actually. From house hunters, we became house stalkers!

Anyway, the days following signing the agreement were busy for me. I had to arrange to get the deposit to the seller agent. A deposit is different from the down payment that you put down for the house. The deposit is part of the down payment, and is paid to secure the purchasing agreement. You forfeit this deposit, if for any reason, you back out of the deal when you're not supposed to.

Home inspection
One condition of the agreement was that we had to arrange for a home inspection in the next 2 days to finalise the deal. A home inspection is very important since it reveals if there are any problems with the house. Should there be issues with the home inspection, you would be able to back out without losing your deposit, if this was highlighted as a condition to close the deal.

Another condition that may be attached to closing the deal was if a buyer gets financing or not.

Arranging for finance with the bank went quick since I already had the pre-approval. Down payments are normally 20% of the purchase price but if you are planning to put down anything lower than that, then an application to the CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) is required for mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance covers the amount owed to the bank in case you default.

Just as a side note, a pre-approval does not mean a mortgage approval. The bank may issue you a pre-approval but can still reject your mortgage application at a later stage. Be very mindful of this. Fortunately though, there are quite a few financial institutions that cater for mortgages. Working with a mortgage broker might help in this case so that you can get the best deal that's in the market at the moment.

Last, but definitely not least, we had to choose a lawyer to do the property transfer. Although we did not know many lawyers (in fact, I did not know one at all), I relied much on recommendations. However, in the end, after I eventually made my choice, I realized that

a) Most lawyers charge similar fees to transfer property.
b) Transfer tax is inevitable. You will pay the exact amount as calculated.
c) A lawyer that's nearby is more convenient so that on closing day, it is easier to get the keys. :-)

Next week, I'll post about hooking up our home.

Writer's Workshop: Learning Recyclables

Thursday, September 4, 2014
3.) Talk about one thing you learned last month.

Typical garbage day

I did not learn this new habit recently, but I do have a deeper understanding of it since becoming a homeowner myself last month. The pressure of learning is certainly on.
As opposed to the one big, gigantic green bin allotted to each property owner that we got accustomed to in South Africa, here in Canada, it’s almost some kind of street celebration when it’s garbage day on your neighbourhood block. The multi-coloured bins line up the street curbs like they were Christmas lights on a pine tree.
The green bins in South Africa were not too choosy and held every kind of waste imaginable. Be it organic, plastic, garbage, recyclable anything, non-recyclable junk, etc., whatever it can carry, as long as the weight is manageable and you can still wheel the bin out to the street, it’s all good.
Shortly after landing here in Canada, we learnt that this bad habit of ours, mixing everything up with no care in the world, was about to go. We were warned that our discarded items would not be collected if we erred on putting the correct garbage in the right bin. And since I do hate unfinished business with a vengeance (and I count uncollected trash as one of them), I decided to brush up on our city’s waste management programs.
Here’s a crash course of what I’ve learnt:
The green bins held the organics, the blue the recycling papers and container items, and the black box was for everything else that were not allowed to be inside the green or blue bins. On occasion, like every 2 weeks or so, there’s a collection for compost which goes into a brown bag. You are only allowed 2 black bags every week unless you can buy tags for additional ones. There are some weeks (very rare) that you can have endless black bags. I have no idea why...yet. You are allowed endless blue bins unless you ran out of blue bins, in which case you’d have to start putting your recyclables in a blue (or white), clear, plastic bag. The green bins here are mini versions of the ones in South Africa. You can throw out appliances and they are either collected or taken by other people. If you are not particular, you can drive around on garbage day. It’s almost like going through a thrift store. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t.
Now that I got that all off my chest, the whole thing felt like a brief rap of information. It overwhelms me at the moment, all these do’s and don’ts, and heaven forbid I eventually put something out that is in the wrong bin, but I am happier to be learning to help the environment in some sort of way.
For the Peel Region’s waste management programs, see here.
Mama’s Losin’ It

Newcomer Stories: Buying a Home

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last month, we celebrated a milestone. After just over 18 months, we've bought our first home in Canada.

It certainly had not been plain sailing. The Canadian housing market is crazy, to say the least. Well, in Mississauga anyway. I started off getting a pre-approval from the bank to find out exactly how much I would qualify for in terms of a price range. It did not take long. I got the pre-approval in a day. And the hunt was on!

Buyer agent
The most important part of the whole buying process was to get yourself an agent. We were no strangers to buying a home (since we've bought in South Africa before) but this concept of a buyer agent was new to us. We've always just dealt with one agent between the seller and buyer. But it was explained that it is always better to get a buyer agent yourself to look out for your interest since a seller agent will look out for the interest of the seller. It would be very hard for an agent to be unbiased (if he is representing both seller and buyer) because his commission would be worked out according to the purchase price.

The hunt
We were regular employees by weekdays and avid house hunters by weekends. I trolled the MLS website like there was no tomorrow. Our agent sent us daily emails about new listings in the areas that we were interested in. These new listings were sometimes not even listed on the MLS website yet so you get first dibs at looking at houses before the general public. We averaged about 4-5 houses a week for 3 months. I don't know if maybe the price range we were looking at was a popular range, but I found the housing market aggressive. Houses did not stay on sale for very long. Most of them were snapped up even before they got listed.

The offer, the bid and the win
The process is fierce, especially when there are other interested buyers. Competition is good but too much can be frustrating. When you are interested in a house, you make an offer. The seller agent receives the offer and discusses it with the seller. The seller may counter-offer. The offer goes back and forth until an agreement is reached. Now, when there are other buyers, their buyer agents try to outbid the offers, and a bidding war ensues. It becomes frustrating when you are unable to up your ante because of limited funds.

We've offered at quite a few houses before we found the one. We were involved in some bidding wars and felt that we would not win since we did not have the financial capabilities to outbid everyone nor could we waive conditions on our offer. We did not have competition on the home we eventually bought. We presented our offer on a Sunday night at about 9pm. Both parties were in agreement by 10pm. The process was seamless. We even got the house for less than the listed price, which was great for our pockets.

We had a few conditions attached to the offer, like arranging for a home inspection and bank financing. Once those conditions were fulfilled, then the offer is finalised. Our closing date was set 90 days after the signing of the document. And so, we are only allowed to move in after 3 months. I thought this was really ideal since there was still so much to be done with regards arranging and organising, as next week's blog post will tell you. Watch this space!