THREE THINGS EVERY "FOR SALE BY OWNER" WISHES THEY KNEW (THAT AGENTS DO!)

Today, you can Google instructions to become a DIY-pro at just about anything. But selling a home is a complex process requiring knowledge that only experience – not the internet – can provide. 

Sellers who try to list their home as “For Sale By Owner” (or FSBO), can miss out on several benefits a professional agent brings to the table. According to Al Limon, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Integrity in Camarillo, California, many previously FSBO clients eventually see working with an agent can save them time and stress.

“When they understand the value an agent brings because of their experience and negotiation skills, many see that working with an agent ultimately delivers a better end result,” says Limon. 

Here are three areas of agent expertise sellers should consider when determining if working with an agent will deliver more value than going it alone.  

1. Marketing strategy and tools to cast a broad net

David Serle, RE/MAX Services

Finding the right buyer for a home goes beyond a “for sale” sign in the yard. The more buyers are interested in a property, the more competitive their offers are likely to be. David Serle, a Broker Manager of RE/MAX Services in Boca Raton, Florida, says the marketing resources an agent brings to the table are difficult for a FSBO to match. 

“My team has a system that helps us market a property more effectively than someone listing their home as a FSBO can on their own,” Serle says. “We use a variety of tools, including Facebook ads and retargeting, to help get as much exposure as possible for a listing.” 

Another tool Serle taps into is the RE/MAX referral network of 125,000 agents worldwide. This is especially important in Serle’s market in South Florida, which tends to attract international buyers. 

“You have to think about who the buyer is, and if there are people in other countries who might potentially purchase the property,” Serle says. “It goes back to having a proven marketing system. At RE/MAX, we have a global referral tool and access to social media advertising to help locate buyers all around the world.”

2. Navigating real estate laws and regulations

Real estate is a complex process, and laws differ from state to state. Working with an agent who is familiar with the unique rules and regulations of their area can help sellers “avoid a lot of heartburn,” according to Limon. “A seller once reached out to me and said the buyer told them they had to pay both sides of the escrow. That’s not true!”

According to Serle, a downside of selling FSBO is when sellers run into pitfalls that could have been avoided with the advice of an experienced professional. “A FSBO seller once called me and said he was getting sued for not disclosing a material defect in the property. An agent could have advised him to file a seller’s disclosure for the home.”

3. Negotiation tactics and avoiding contract issues

Al Limon, RE/MAX Integrity

While there are several rules that govern a real estate transaction, there’s also a lot of gray area. This is where Limon says an agent’s negotiation skills can really benefit sellers. 

“Yes, agents obtain a fee for helping clients sell their home, but they also help negotiate items clients don’t need to pay for,” Limon says. 

For example, many buyers are under the impression that sellers must repair any defects found in the inspection. Not true, Limon says. “An agent can help sellers negotiate repairs. We have the knowledge of what really needs to be completed and what can be countered or declined.” 

Just as critical as the inspection is the fact that agents are also skilled at negotiating the final sale price. 

Limon points out the importance of understanding the nuances of different offers. 

“Whether the offer is cash or a VA or FHA loan, an agent can help the seller understand the differences and what they should know before accepting an offer.” 

Ultimately, Limon says the role of an agent is to help protect buyers and sellers.

“Once FSBO sellers see the knowledge and experience we bring from working in real estate every day, they begin to see, ‘I do need someone like you on my side,’” Limon says. 

Serle adds, “Realtors sell thousands of homes over their career. They know the market. They know what to expect in the transaction. They know 150 things to do in order to get you to closing.”

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Anita has been an independent real estate agent with RE/MAX Associates since 2008. She provides a full suite of residential and commercial real estate services, focusing on the city of Winnipeg, West St. Paul, East St. Paul, Gimli and surrounding communities.

If you are looking to buy, sell or build - it would be my pleasure to work for you. You can contact me at your convenience to discuss your needs in depth (204-989-9000).

KEY LIVEABILITY FACTORS WHEN BUYING OR SELLING A HOME

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When buying or selling a home, it’s important to think big. Look beyond the home itself. What does the neighbourhood have to offer? These features factor into the “liveability” of a community and help contribute to a home’s appeal (translation: higher resale value). Unfortunately, liveability factors are often lost among a home’s marble countertops and square footage.

Liveability is key to the quality of life that a home offers. Here are five amenities to consider:

Green spaces & parks

According to the survey for the 2019 RE/MAX Housing Market Outlook report, 59 per cent of Canadians expressed a wish to live closer to green spaces. Green spaces and parks are not only beautiful but functional as an extension of living areas, fostering a sense of community.

 

Bike lanes & walking paths

Safe walking and bike paths are crucial to liveability and benefit not only your health but the environment as well.

 

Public transit

Having access to a good public transit system is ideal, particularly for those living in urban city centres. Removing the need to own a car and reducing environmental footprint are valuable features that close proximity to transit can provide.

 

Retail & restaurants

The ability to walk to a selection of shopping and restaurants is an important quality for many people, bringing efficiency and character to neighbourhoods.

 

Cultural & community centres

A sense of community fosters quality of life. Visits to local shops, cafes or community centres offer the opportunity to meet and connect with neighbours.

 

Thinking about community qualities can be an effective way to distinguish properties. Look beyond the home’s physical features add liveability to your list of must-have features when you’re buying or selling a home. Not only will you enjoy life more while you live in the home, but these factors can also boost its resale value when you’re ready to make your next move.

Source: RE/MAX Canada


9 HOME BUYING MISTAKES FIRST TIME BUYERS MAKE

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9. Shopping before getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

Many first-time homebuyers decide they’re ready to take the leap, and start touring open houses “just to see what’s out there.” While getting a feel for the market is certainly a good idea, you risk falling in love with a home that is not in your budget. Before you start seriously shopping the market, visit your bank, mortgage broker or lender, and get a mortgage pre-approval. You’ll know the exact amount you’ll qualify for, so when you’re ready to make an offer, you can do so with confidence and no “conditional of financing” clauses.

8. Skipping the mortgage pre-approval altogether.

We’re mentioning this one again, because it’s super important. Getting pre-approved not only informs you of how much you can spend on a home, but it also guarantees the current interest rate for about 90 days, giving you the freedom to shop knowing you’re safe from rate hikes in the near future. With interest rates on the rise, this step is more important than ever.

7. Making major life changes when applying for a mortgage.

Once you’ve filed your application, avoid changing jobs, making big-ticket purchases on credit, or taking out new loans. These can all alter your financial picture, and can impact your ability to qualify for the mortgage or the amount you had originally anticipated. If possible, wait until after you’ve crossed the ‘t’s and dotted the ‘i’s.

6. Not saving enough for a down payment.

It’s true that the minimum requirement in Canada is five per cent, but try to put down at least 20 per cent of the purchase price. Having 20 per cent or more means you won’t have to take out a high-ratio mortgage – and avoid the mortgage default insurance premiums that go with it. If you are unable to save this minimum amount, this could be an indicator that you’re shopping beyond your financial capacity. Consider lowering your budget, delaying the purchase until you’ve saved enough money, and consult a trusted financial advisor for advice tailored to your situation.

READ: https://blog.remax.ca/much-will-cost-buy-house/

5. Not accounting for the “extra” costs.

You can estimate to spend (approximately) between 1.5 to four per cent of the purchase price of the home. This includes costs such as the deposit, property insurance, title insurance, lawyer fees, home inspection fee, moving costs and more. Be sure to budget these into your purchasing plan.

Use this MONTHLY HOME BUDGET PLANNER to get started.

4. Not seeing enough homes.

Before you settle down, make sure you sow your oats, so to speak. Since you’ve never owned a home, and particularly if you’re moving from your parents’ place, you’ll want to tour lots of different home styles and neighbourhoods. Keep an open mind – you just mist surprise yourself! When narrowing down your home’s location, weigh factors such as proximity to work, family and friends; public transit and access to major roads and highways; and things such as shopping, services, green space, and your lifestyle. which will affect the liveability of the home, its current value, and the resale price of your home.

READ: Location Versus Home Style

3. Seeing too many homes.

Don’t get us wrong – it’s definitely a good idea to see what’s on the market, if only for the sake of comparison. You’ll gain a better understanding of what comparable homes are valued at, their condition, and your negotiating power. This is valuable intel, whether you’re buying your first home or your tenth. But buyer beware: particularly in a hot market, sitting on the fence can mean losing the property. A trusted, experienced real estate agent can best advise you on this.

CLICK TO FIND AN AGENT

2. Not getting everything in writing.

Under the right market conditions, negotiating may be part of your purchasing plan. Any conditions of the purchase and sale must be on paper. If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t count. Your contract is your only way of holding the buyer and seller accountable. An experienced real estate agent can help advise you, and negotiate on your behalf.

READ: 7 Questions To Ask An Agent Before Your Commit

1. Biting off more than you can chew.

You’ve likely heard the term “house poor.” Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, so ensure you can afford it. As a first foray into home ownership, condos are a popular choice, thanks to their lower price point, smaller footprint (read: less maintenance and lower operating costs) and their central locations. But condos are a lifestyle choice as well as a financial one. Consider your purchase from all angles.

Source: RE/MAX Canada

HOME SECURITY DO'S & DON'TS

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Whenever you leave your home — whether it’s for a fall vacation, the school run, or a just a long day at Costco — you want everything to be in its place when you get back. Protect yourself from theft with these do’s and don’ts of home security.

DO: Lock It Down

Sure, it’s home-security common sense to have locks on all exterior doors, but have you thought about other entrances? Basically, any entrance into the property should have a locking mechanism, including gates and windows. Many burglaries aren’t forced entries; the intruders just walk through unlocked doors.

DON’T: Hide and Seek

After going to the trouble of installing all these locks, don’t hide a door key outside “just in case.” Your home security is compromised the second someone finds out about its “secret” location (yes, thieves will look under the flower pots). If you must have a spare key, keep it in your car, which should also be locked at all times.

DO: Look Who’s Knockin’

Installing a peephole in your front door lets you check out who’s knocking and gives you time to determine the next action. Simply having a peephole in your door can be enough to deter unwanted guests.

DON’T: Encourage “Window Shopping”

Keep valuables such as high-end media centres, jewelry collections, and expensive sports equipment away from windows. Treating your home like a store-window display will just advertise to potential burglars that your home is worth keeping an eye on.

DO: Light It Up

Putting up a set of outdoor motion-sensor lighting near the front door, garage and any nearby alleyways provides a visual deterrent for would-be thieves. After all, uninvited guests tend to stay out of the spotlight.

DON’T: Socialize

We get it — you want to update your social media channels about what’s new and cool in your life. But you may want to keep your plans for that exciting winter vacation or your new Wednesday-night Barre class to yourself. Letting strangers know your whereabouts is another way of telling them your home is up for grabs.

DO: Change It Up

If you’re moving into a new home, take the time and invest in a whole new set of locks. You have no way of knowing who’s got keys to the current locks, and it simply isn’t worth risking it. The same goes if you lose your current key — replace the whole system ASAP.

DO: Safe Landscaping

Hedges, shrubs, and fencing segments provide excellent places for crooks to hide while checking your property for security vulnerabilities. Cut back bushes, trim hedges, and limb trees so that all entrances are visible from the street.

We should all hope for the best but prepare for the worst when it comes to our home security. Fortunately, it only takes a few easy measures to make you and your family feel safe and secure in your own home.

Source: RE/MAX Canada

TOP 5 REASONS CONDO OWNERSHIP IS AWESOME

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Condo ownership has picked up speed in urban centers across Canada. According to the 2016 census, nearly 1.9 million condominiums were occupied by Canadians. And in the time between 2016 and today, you can bet that number has increased for a number of reasons.

Affordability plays a big role, but that’s not the only reason for condos’ soaring popularity.

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Location, location, location

Due to their very nature, condos have typically been a downtown mainstay. Their smaller size has always been worth the trade-off when it comes to convenience and the amenities steps from home. And thanks to urban sprawl and urban un-affordability, condos can be seen rising in suburban areas as well, close to transit hubs, shopping and services that make them a great alternative to traditional single-family homes.

According to Statistics Canada, between 2011 and 2016, the growth rate of Canadian households living in condominiums was up 16.6 per cent in Census Metropolitan Areas, which are defined as areas with a population of at least 100,000, with 50,000 or more living in the core. Non-CMAs (read: smaller cities and towns) were not far behind, with the growth rate increasing by 11.9 per cent.

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Lock-n-leave lifestyle

Does the term “turn-key” resonate with you? This is a big draw to condo ownership across all ages and stages in life.

First, there’s the maintenance factor to consider. How do you feel about washing exterior windows every spring and fall? What about shovelling the driveway and sidewalk in the winter? Or mowing the lawn and maintaining gardens through the warmer seasons? There’s no question that some people truly enjoy all the upkeep that comes with home ownership. Bot for those who don’t have the time, ability or inclination for regular maintenance, a condo could be your dream home come true.

Part of condo ownership is paying a monthly condo fee – a portion of which goes to the above-mentioned services. This makes condos ideal for busy professionals, jet-setters, snow birds, the young and the restless, and those who refuse to lug garbage bags out to the curb.

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Little (and big!) luxuries

We mentioned the condo fee – a portion of which covers your use of (and maintenance of) the building amenities. The best part? You won’t have to leave the comfort of home to enjoy them. With condos gaining popularity, many developers are including five-star level services to make your home-sweet-home all the sweeter. Think concierge service and a-la-carte options like home cleaning and laundry (at a cost, of course); spa, salon and massage; a fully equipped gym with fitness classes; pool, hot tub and sauna; games room, party room, board room, library, film-screening theatre, even a guest suite available for overnight visitors. The list is long and luxe.

Depending on the age and amenities offered in your condo building, your fees will vary. But just think about what a rooftop pool, a home theatre and butler service would cost you in a your detached home!

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Investment opportunity

We started this Top 5 list with money, so let’s end it with money. Investors have always sought out small condos in urban centres as great money-makers. Particularly if you plan to hold the property over the long-term, you can rent it to a tenant and use the rental income to pay off the mortgage. Once you have that monkey off your back, you can reap the rewards of owning a really cool downtown crash pad, sell it and pocket the profits, or continue renting to tenants – and earn! Here are some signs of a great investment opportunity:

Low vacancy rates
Steady population growth
Lots of employment opportunities
Higher average income
New infrastructure developments
Public transit projects

Blog Source: RE/MAX Canada
Written By: Lydia McNutt RE/MAX Integra
Images: Streetside Development | Hudson Condominiums

MY LOCAL GIFT GUIDE!

I happily support and promote local artisans and businesses whenever I get the chance! Manitoba has an abundance of talent, making it easy to ‘avoid the mall and shop small’! Here is a list of my top 8 (local) gift giving ideas this season:

KAL BARTESKI
Custom KB Scripts are my go to! Original works of art by one of Winnipeg’s most talented and kind-hearted creators.
Stay Social: @kalbarteski

YARD MONSTER GAMES
Custom made MONSTER sized wooden games, perfect gift for the game lover or cottage goer! Fun for the whole family!!
Stay Social: @yardmonstergames

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ESSENTIALS AND EVERGREENS
For the Essential Oil lover on your list: I love gifting Essentials and Evergreens perfume rollers! They aren’t only gorgeous, but extremely beneficial.
Stay Social: @essentialsandevergreens

CHARLESTON & HARLOW CANDLE CO.
Candles and skin care hand-poured in Brandon, MB. Perfect for stockings, gift exchanges or as an add-on!
Stay Social: @charlestonandharlow

LOKA BOUTIQUE
Loka carries everything from cute coffee mugs to candles (perfect stocking stuffers!), cozy sweaters and festive holiday dressesWith a variety of brands, styles and price points, there is definitely something for every lady on your list!
Stay Social: @lokaboutique

SHE SPARKLES
If you want to add a little sparkle to some one’s life, you’ve come to the right place! She Sparkles has hand stamped and glittered wine tumblers, coffee mugs, water bottles and more. As well, they have a selection of beautiful (custom) jewelry.
Stay Social: @shesparkles.ca

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CLAY OVEN
A Clay Oven gift card - perfect for the food (and drink!) lover in your life! The expansive menu means there is bound to be something for every palette. Plus they have 3 Winnipeg locations to serve you!
Stay Social: @clayoven

CALLIA FLOWERS
What I love most about Callia is the presentation that accompanies each bouquet – it certainly sets them apart from other florists. And with their easy to order online process and fast delivery, you really can’t go wrong!  
Stay Social: @calliaflowers

Happy Holidays! XO

THE ELEMENT OF COLOUR: HOW TO MAKE A NEUTRAL SPACE POP

The current trend of designing your home with greys, whites, and overall neutrals make it much more difficult to be inspired to add a pop of colour to your living space. I recommend that you start small, perhaps with a traditional ‘made-for-colour-space’ like a playroom or children’s bedroom.

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There is no need to go shopping, use what you already own to customize your interior. Small pieces such as picture frames and pillows easily allow us to add that pop without overdoing it! Area rugs and furniture (a solo green arm chair for example) are also a great way to brighten your space. Just make sure the coloured pieces that you’re introducing, complement your existing decor.

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If you’re feeling adventurous, make a statement by creating an accent wall. Take an empty wall from background to center stage with a prominent piece of art work, a bold paint colour, fabric, wallpaper, or a gallery of photos.   

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Incorporating plants into your home is also a great way to add colour, life and dimension. Whether it’s a single large plant next to your sofa, a cluster of smaller pots at your en trance or a vase of fresh flowers on the dining room table – you can’t go wrong with a little plant beauty!

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To conclude, colour definitely sets the mood and tone of your home. Some colours are vivacious and energetic, while others are much more calming and relaxing. Pick a palette that works best for you, and if you keep it simple with textiles and accessories, you can easily switch it up down the road! 

*All images courtesy of @dominomag (via Instagram)

MY FITNESS JOURNEY

I feel like over the years I have struggled to find the time, and gain the momentum, to create a workout routine that I could easily incorporate into my (hectic) lifestyle! I often find myself thinking: am I the only one that struggles with this?!

After my 42nd birthday last year, I realized I needed to take action and that’s when I started making my health a priority. I found myself a personal trainer and was going to the gym multiples times a week at 6 am. And guess what, I truly enjoyed working out (which in the past, I would dread doing). I found what worked best for me was to go first thing in the morning; because let’s face it, I certainly didn’t have the energy after a long day to go at night! Despite not changing my eating habits (sorry, this girl still needs pasta and wine every now and then!), I began to see results – I felt stronger and had a TON more energy! This really helped to motivate me even more!! I was on the right track and feeling GREAT about it. I admit that I wasn’t losing a ton of weight like I had hoped, but regardless, I started to love the way I felt again in my clothes.  

This past May, my trainer left the facility I was at... and that’s when things started to unravel. I found myself skipping out on workouts and eventually, not going at all. Life was busy, and fitness was put on the backburner (again).  

Now here we are in August and another birthday has passed... I don’t know what it is about “my birthday” but I suddenly feel inclined to get back into a fitness routine – so I went out and bought myself a Fitbit! I know it might sound silly, but I think it’s a great tool to hold me accountable. I like looking at the tracker at the end each day and then challenging myself to do even better the next!! Now I make a conscious effort to go for walks. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes! And I encourage my family to join me – this is truly the best of both worlds because I get to spend time with my husband and kids AND get some exercise!

Overall, I feel like I have my family, work and social life together, but I can’t get a solid grasp on this health & fitness part! With that said, I will keep you posted over the coming months as to where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and certainly share any progress I have made! 

So stay tuned for updates on this ‘rollercoaster’ of a journey!     

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MY SUMMER EVENTS CALENDAR

Summer time is here! It’s time to get out, enjoy the sunshine and experience everything
this beautiful province has to offer!

The following activities and events are on my to-do list this summer:

CLEAR LAKE
My kids have been asking me to go camping for a while now. So this summer I am
surprising them with a mini getaway to beautiful Clear Lake, Manitoba. I haven’t visited
the area since my early twenties, so I am definitely excited to go back and experience it
with my family! I have rented this super cool tent like hut - an oTENTik tent, highly
recommended by my good friend Gabby! The oTENTik tent offers a unique blend of
homey comfort and a taste of outdoor adventure (I am not a hardcore camper – so this
is a good compromise LOL). I am really looking forward to checking out some local
shops, hiking, wandering, and of course, enjoying the water! If you have any
recommendations on what else we should do while there, please contact me!! I
welcome any and all suggestions!

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GIMLI FILM FESTIVAL | July 25-29
My family and I attend the Film Festival annually - what a great way to celebrate and
experience Manitoba-made cinema! I highly recommend the sunset screening – FREE
on the beach movies!! What’s better than that?! A great idea for family night or date
night! On the list this year are a few of my old favorites including – A League of Their
Own, The Big Lebowski, + Stand By Me.

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ICELANDIC FESTIVAL | August 3-6
I can honestly say I look forward to this weekend every single year! So many fun and
exciting things to do for young and old alike! Everything from the Wonder Show Midway
to craft beer and all the food vendors, live music, sandcastle competition, a street
parade, fireworks... I could seriously go on and on!!! If you haven’t been, I HIGHLY
recommend adding it to your calendar this year!

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PINERIDGE HOLLOW
Where to begin! I absolutely love this place and every time I go, I find something new to
do or see! Enjoy a delicious homemade meal or light snack at the onsite restaurant.
Their menu offers a wide variety of options, so there is bound to be something for
everyone! After lunch, be sure to stop by the store (I could literally spend HOURS in
here!). They carry everything from home decor, clothing + accessories, gift-ware,
furniture and SO MUCH MORE!!! And before you leave, don’t forget to visit Faith (the
CUTEST pig) and all her other friends!

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ARNE’S FARMERS MARKET | Saturday’s & Sunday’s
This place is an absolute MUST!!! I don’t have enough good things to say about the
Arne’s Farmers Market – I go every summer! Located just north of Gimli, this market
features locally (and Manitoba) made food and products. You can find: LITERALLY the
best doughnuts on earth (no, I am not exaggerating), an assortment of fresh fruit and veggies, handmade goodies and so much MORE. And of course I’m looking forward to
visiting some of my favorites – Essentially Minded and She’s Got Leggs!

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INTEGRITY FOODS
Located in Riverton, this family farm is bound to appeal to young and old alike! This
place is truly a haven situated just a short drive from the city! In addition to the delicious
baked goods (that can be purchased onsite), you can enjoy the beautiful garden, AND
you will find some cute playful creatures that love getting attention from visitors (ducks,
chickens, alpacas, and more!).
I also recommend attending their “Pizza Night”, which runs every Friday and Saturday
from 5pm – 9pm (rain or shine!). I personally haven’t been (yet!), but definitely on the
agenda for this summer. I have heard only good things about it!! Tables, chairs, and
picnic blankets are all provided but you are encouraged to bring your own drinks,
salads, desserts to enjoy with your delicious PIZZA! How cool!

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GIRLS NIGHT ON LA ROCA’S PATIO
Bring on the sangria and cold margaritas! Nothing beats a hot summer night on
Winnipeg’s nicest 2-story outdoor patio! Enjoy live music, Mexican cuisine, and a fun
atmosphere, while hanging with your girls! I don’t know about you but when I am out
with my girls we ALWAYS have a blast and close the place down!!

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CASA BIANCA
Every summer Craig and I go on a double date with our good friends Kristen and
Landon. Casa Bianca is the best Italian restaurant hands down; offering wholesome
authentic food, an amazing wine list and excellent ambiance and service. You literally
feel like you have escaped to Italy for the night! (pro tip: to avoid disappointment, call
ahead and make a reservation as they are fully booked every evening!)

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Now that I have shared my summer with you, I encourage you to get out, perhaps try
something new and make the best of yours! XO

BRUNCH AT JILLIAN'S

Many of you have been patiently waiting for all the details, well here they are…

When Jillian first mentioned on Instagram that she was hosting a brunch in support of Mamas for Mamas, I knew I would love to support such an important organization + to have the opportunity to meet a woman I admire so much – that was just so surreal! 

On September 29, I found out that my bid secured one of 10 seats at Jillian’s table for brunch! I was so freaking excited and in complete disbelief. I kept opening the email from Team Jilly that congratulated me to reassure myself that I wasn’t imagining the whole thing!

When I called my BFF's - who love Jillian as much as I do -  they were so excited for me and each one of them said we are coming along! So, we booked a girls' trip to Kelowna and the countdown began. 

We arrived in Kelowna two days before the brunch and had such a fun time visiting all these awesome wineries. Needless to say we drank A LOT of wine those first two days, starting at 11 am until we crawled into bed the wee hours of the night. The night before the brunch, my very responsible girlfriend Gabby gave me strict orders to hit the hay early and get a good night’s sleep. Best advice ever. 

I woke up a bag of nerves. What if they don’t like me? I won’t know anyone at the brunch? What if I drink too much, LOL?! Very quickly, my girlfriends reassured me to just to be myself and all would be good. With that advice, and a few mimosas, my nerves subsided.

I had arranged for Jenny McKinney, a local makeup artist, to come to our suite and pretty me up. Jenny was amazing + so much fun! We had the tunes going and the mimosas flowing. My girlfriends walked me down to the lobby where the limo arrived and off I went! Champagne was flowing in the limo and very quickly, all of us 10 lucky ladies heading to brunch became new friends. 

We reached Jillian & Justin’s home and it looked just as beautiful as it does in her Instagram stories. Justin (who is soooo super handsome) opened the limo door and welcomed all of us. Man, my heart skipped a beat. Jillian was on her porch, with a smile from ear-to-ear, looking stunning as always and greeted all of us like we were old friends. Mindy, Shay, Mackenzie, Tori and Nacho were also there and little Leo joined us later too. All of these ladies are super sweet, beautiful and kind. They made me feel so comfortable. 

We went inside and hugs were exchanged. Mackenzie, who is also from Winnipeg, gave me the biggest hug and said how happy she was when she found out someone from her hometown was coming to brunch! After Jillian’s heartfelt toast, we all settled at the table and were serenaded by the very talented Aaron Pritchett! We sipped champagne, rosé, and red wine. 

Then brunch was served. The food - oh my gosh! All of the wonderful courses prepared by Chef Jeremy Luypen and his team were vegetarian or vegan. It was so delicious!

 
 

After brunch, Jillian gave us our incredible gift baskets. Seriously, Jillian spoiled us. The gifts were so very generous and thoughtful. Birdie slippers, Smash +Tess romper (I wore this for a solid week), Larson & Jennings watch, Minted gift certificate (which I just used for my holiday cards), Melanie Auld Jewelry and so much more! This was a day and experience I will never forget. 

When I thought the day couldn’t have gone any better, Jillian came to me as I was leaving and said that she would like to surprise my friends that evening and meet us after dinner. I tried to act as cool as a popsicle, but I was dying – DYING - inside. Jillian Harris was going to hang out with us!

Back at the hotel, my girls wanted all the details! We cracked open the bottle of Cedar Creek wine from my gift basket and poured over all the amazing brunch details. They were so excited and happy for me. 

Photos by mackenziejanephoto

That evening, we headed to Quail's Gate for our last wine tasting + dinner. When Jillian arrived to the restaurant, my BFF Alison said: Don’t look, but I think Jillian and her friends are here for dinner? Jillian walked to our table with Justin, Shay, Mindy, Mackenzie, Luke, Aaron & Jess and asked to join us?  My girls had no clue that they were there to surprise them! The girls literally screamed their faces off! And the surprise was really so sweet and generous of Team Jilly. 

It was an evening filled with wine, fancy tequila shots, many selfies and us making plans for Team Jilly to come to Winnipeg. Wouldn’t that be so awesome!? I know many of my Manitoba friends adore Jillian as much as I do. The real, kind, loving woman we see in Jillian’s Instagram....  times that by 100. She’s the real deal!

Alison, Harinder + Gabriela thank you so much for coming along. Our trip to Kelowna is one that I will never forget.  Love you girls to pieces. xo