Head Mother Nature’s warning and prepare your emergency kit

Half a million residents were without power after the latest wind storm hit the lower mainland in late August.  300,000 hectares of BC forest have burned this summer.   And, of course, we have the ever present threat of “the big one” earthquake.

Now is the time to review and prepare your emergency kit.  Recheck batteries, food and water supply expiry dates and fill in any pieces you are missing. Experts agree you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours following a disaster.

10 Essentials for your Emergency Kit

  1. Water — At least two litres of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  2. Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods (replace food and water once a year)
  3. Manual can opener
  4. Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
  5. Crank or battery-powered radio (and extra batteries)
  6. First aid kit
  7. Extra keys to your car and house
  8. Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones (if you can find one)
  9. A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  10. If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

 

Click here to order Emergency Preparedness Kits for the Home or Car from the BC Government (1-6 person kits available)

This article was originally posted on CBC News, October 17th, 2013.

5 Ways to Stay Safe At Home

No matter how beautiful or spacious your house, the most important thing is that you feel safe and secure in your own home. It is scary to think that break-ins happen, but don’t worry, there are things you can do to prevent them. Check out these 5 tips to stay safe at home!

  1. Set up an alarm system. Alarms are one of the most effective ways to ensure safety in your own house. By setting up an alarm system, the police would be alerted in case of a break in. Moreover, it would automatically make your home a less favorable target since the burglars would not want to risk setting off the alarm.
  2. Don’t hide your keys in obvious places. Hiding your keys under the doormat or a rock may be okay a few decades ago, but now you may want to change up your hiding spot. The best place to put a spare key is with a trustworthy neighbor or family member.
  3. Install yard lights and security cameras. The brighter the area outside your house is the less likely it is for burglars or intruders to find hiding spots. A security camera could also help with identifying the intruders or alerting homeowners of an intrusion.
  4. Lock your windows and doors. The easiest way to prevent a break-in is at the point of entry. Locks are crucial, so don’t be afraid of spending a little bit more on them to ensure the safety of your house. Burglar-proof windows are not necessary but could be a possible upgrade in particularly at risk areas or dark alleyways.
  5. Keeps your plans private. You may be super excited for your next vacation, but wait until you’re back from the trip to share your plans publicly. It’s okay to tell your close friends and families but there is no need to tell the supermarket clerk or the hairdresser because burglars rely on these tips on people who will be out of town.

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5 Tips for Staying on Budget During Renovations

Are you getting ready to sell your house? Perhaps that includes some renovations. Check out our top 5 Tips for Staying on Budget during Renovations!

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  1. Stick with standard sizes and models. Custom kitchen cabinets, for example, are very expensive. Save money by choosing stock ones, then attaching molding, corbels, or wood carvings for flair.
  2. Don’t work without a design. Some projects require an architect, some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan. Don’t start a remodel without a detailed floor plan. A lot of elements interact in a space — put them all on paper and you’ll catch problems before they are built.
  3. Rent or borrow what you don’t have. Check with neighbors and friends for miter saws and power drills. Home centers rent heavy-duty tools, such as tile cutters and power washers, for a weekend fee
  4. Keep the same footprint. Consider what projects you can complete without moving walls or other systems behind the walls. Building an addition, moving walls, or relocating sinks and stoves involves major construction as well as new electrical, plumbing and flooring work.
  5. Budget for the Unknown. While it’s great to keep a positive attitude and think that everything will go as planned, life usually doesn’t work out that way. When coming up with your kitchen reno budget, add on at least 15% for contingencies.

5 Spring Cleaning Hacks

Spring is here and that means it’s time to start your spring cleaning. But it doesn’t have to be the bane of your existence this year! Here are a few hacks that will help you get through that cleaning faster with these spring cleaning hacks.

1. Use lemons to remove hard water stains

lemon
Find instructions on Broccoli Cupcake

2. Coarse salt can help you clean cast iron.

pan
Find instructions on Martha Stewart

3. Get rid of water rings on tables by using a hair dryer

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Find instructions on Homemade Mamas

4. Remove soap buildup from glass shower doors by using a fabric-softener sheet

shower
Find instructions on Real Simple

5. Slide an old pillow case over a ceiling fan blade to catch dust and dirt

fan
Find instructions on Real Simple

5 Top Tech For Your Home

Is your New Years resolution to revamp some of your gadgets? Let 2015 be the year you upgrade the technology for your home! Here are some of our favorite new products to help streamline your daily routine.

USB-wall-plug
(Two Twenty One)
USB Wall Outlets
Replace bulky chargers and plug your USB cable straight into the outlet! They are especially useful by the bed, where many of us stash all kinds of USB-equipped devices, such as phones, tablets, and e-readers. That stuff competes for space on a standard duplex outlet that may already be serving a bedside lamp or a clock. Most hardware stores now carry these outlets. Learn how to install one here.



(Masudas)
Ring Smart House Controller
Simply called “Ring,” this $269 US wearable device from Japanese company, Logbar, allows people to control a host of household appliances, including lamps and televisions. By pressing a stud on the side of Ring with your thumb, you can draw gestures in the air that turn items off or on.
Source: Logbar


h67pro_2_1
(Moneual)
Robot Vacuum and Mop
The Moneual Rydis H67 isn’t just a regular robot vacuum cleaner, it’s also a robot mop too. The $399 product, from California-based Moneual, can be programmed to suck up dust then mop your floor, with full cleaning cycles lasting up to five hours.
Source: Moneual



(USA Today)
Child-Proof Outlets
Thousands of children end up in hospital every year after sticking their fingers (and other items) into electrical sockets. San Diego-based Brio believes it has an answer with the Safe, a $49 US wall socket that uses sensors to differentiate between plugs and other objects. The socket only lets power flow if an electrical plug is detected. Anything else stuck into the hole won’t receive a charge, preventing someone from being shocked.
Source: Brio


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(PetNet)
Smart Feeder for Pets
This new feeder from PetNet features remote feeding so you can control your pet’s feeding from your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Adjust feeding schedule in real-time, from anywhere or set up automated schedules to manage feeding times, portion sizes, and food dispensing speed. As well receive alerts and notifications on your smartphone about feeding times, meal confirmations and food inventory.
Source: PetNet

British Columbia Earthquake Preparedness

earthquake-plates

Vancouver and British Columbia are at a high-risk of having an earthquake. Be prepared, and learn what you can do to keep you, your family, and your home safe.

For your family:

  • Identify objects in your home that could be dangerous during an emergency
  • Plan evacuation routes from every room in your home
  • Pick two meeting places where you and your family can get back together if you get separated – one close to your home, and one a little further away
  • Ask an out-of-province relative or friend to be your family contact person
  • Prepare your emergency kits
  • Teach family members how to turn off utilities, use a fire extinguisher, and call 9-1-1
  • Make arrangements for seniors and family members with special needs
  • Save digital copies of important documents — such as birth certificates and financial records — on a memory stick, or make photocopies of them
  • Think about what you might be able to contribute to your community; sharing a meal, tools, or a phone charger are especially meaningful in the days after an emergency

For your home:

  • Install latches on cupboards
  • Refer to emergency preparedness manuals that are available in bookstores and libraries.
  • Place large and heavy objects on lower shelves
  • Fasten tall furniture to the walls
  • Store breakable items, such as glass jars and china, in low closed cabinets with latches
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches, or anywhere people sit
  • Anchor overhead lighting fixtures securely to the ceiling
  • Know the locations of electric fuse or circuit breaker box, water service shut-off, and natural gas main shut-off as you may need to turn them off after the earthquake
  • Purchase earthquake insurance

 

Find more tips at the City of Vancouver website

Keep the toaster, we’re crowdfunding our down payment

Websites help newlyweds raise money to put toward real estate goals

Newlyweds tend to receive many gifts that end up in the trash or never see the light of day.

Nowadays, many couples have been living together for years before they actually tie the knot, so they’ve probably got the silverware and salt-and-pepper shakers covered.

But what if newlyweds could channel the generosity of all their family and friends towards a big-ticket item of their choosing, like a down payment for a home?

That’s a strategy that people who are set to receive a wave of gifts for a special occasion may take more and more as crowdfunding continues to gain traction.

People have long been using Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other mainstream crowdfunding sites to raise cash for all manner of pursuits.

But more recently, niche crowdfunding sites have been popping up. A number of them focus on helping people raise cash for real estate-related pursuits, including cobbling together enough cash for a down payment.

Feather the Nest, for example, lets users create pages where they can use text, photos and video to describe what real estate aspirations they want contributors to help them fund. Users then share their campaigns through email and their social media accounts.

People can turn to Feather the Nest whenever they want to try to drum up cash for real estate goals, but the site was designed to help people capitalize on the outpouring of generosity that typically comes with special occasions.

The best example would be a wedding, said Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based Lindsay Oparowski, CEO of Feather the Nest. The spread of honeymoon registries like Honeyfund.com and Traveler’s Joy show that many couples are keen on funneling the goodwill of friends and family towards a single purpose, rather than sitting back to accept a hodgepodge of smaller gifts.

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Screen shot showing sample DownPaymentDreams.com campaign.

Oparowski envisions soon-to-be-married couples sharing their campaigns for real estate projects with friends and loved ones  and posting them to their wedding websites. The campaigns could either complement the wedding gift menus that couples commonly offer up to family and friends, or they could replace them altogether.

That way, you end up with a house, not “mismatched placemats,” Oparowski said.

Feather the Nest isn’t the only company trying to help people crowdfund down payments. Gift registries Hatch My House and DownPaymentDreams.com both target couples who would prefer down payment assistance over cutlery and candlesticks.

Launched by Wilmington-North Carolina-based real estate agent Teresa Krebs, DownPaymentDreams.com acts as an agent referral service, offering couples a refund of the site’s registration fee and a gift card to a home improvement store in exchange for working with an agent handpicked by the site. Krebs said 20 couples a month sign up on average, with close to 800 having registered since the site launched in 2009.

“In this generation, so many people are wanting to buy a house and they already have furnishings and towels and pots and pans and things like that,” Krebs said. “Among my group of friends that’s what people really wanted for a wedding gift — cash for a down payment.”

HomeFunded.com launched last year, but the website is still listed as being in beta testing.

Hatch My House has helped people raise about $1.7 million for down payments, $200,000 for remodeling and renovations and $100,000 for furnishings and decorations, according to Rieve MacEwen, who founded Hatch My House in 2009 with his wife Erin-Marie. More than 2,000 registeries have received funds on the site, he added.

According to Hatch My House, the average price of a wedding gift is $125, while the average number of gifts for a wedding is 70. That means, theoretically, the typical couple using the site would raise $9,000 to put towards a down payment if every wedding gift went towards their campaign.

PRIMARQ is taking a less romantic approach to the enterprise: The crowdfunder is attempting to enable buyers to obtain down payment assistance from investors in exchange for slices of their home equity.

Screen shot showing Feather the Nest’s campaign directory page.

Oparowski, who was previously a marketing director for two brokerages, said that agents could recommend Feather the Nest to people who are on the fence about buying, or use it as a “touchpoint” to maintain contact with past clients.

The site will generate revenue by taking a cut of the funds users raise through campaigns, but also plans to sell sponsorships to agents, where nest owners would receive some cash for permitting an agent’s advertising to appear next to their campaigns.

This article was originally posted on Inman News, June 30, 2014.  Written by Teke Wiggin.
View the original post at Inman News.

For more information contact Macdonald Realty at 1-877-278-3888

Preparing Your Kids for a New Home

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Sooner or later, many families face the prospect of moving. Disruptive as moving can be for parents, the experience can be even more traumatic for kids, who may not be a part of the decision to move and might not understand it.

Kids can need some time and special attention during the transition. Try these tips to make the process less stressful for everyone.

Making the Decision to Move
Many kids thrive on familiarity and routine. So as you consider a move, weigh the benefits of that change against the comfort that established surroundings, school, and social life give your kids.

The decision to move may be out of your hands, perhaps due to a job transfer or financial issues. Even if you’re not happy about the move, try to maintain a positive attitude about it. During times of transition, a parent’s moods and attitudes can greatly affect kids, who may be looking for reassurance.

Discussing the Move With Kids
No matter what the circumstances, the most important way to prepare kids to move is to talk about it. Try to give them as much information about the move as soon as possible. Answer questions completely and truthfully, and be receptive to both positive and negative reactions. Even if the move means an improvement in family life, kids don’t always understand that and may be focused on the frightening aspects of the change.

Involving kids in the planning as much as possible makes them feel like participants in the house-hunting process or the search for a new school. This can make the change feel less like it’s being forced on them.

If you’re moving across town, try to take your kids to visit the new house (or see it being built) and explore the new neighborhood. For distant moves, provide as much information as you can about the new home, city, and province (or country). Access the Internet to learn about the community. Learn where kids can participate in favorite activities. See if a relative, friend, or even a real estate agent can take pictures of the new house and new school for your child.

Moving With Toddlers and Preschoolers
Kids younger than 6 may be the easiest to move, as they have a limited capacity to understand the changes involved. Still, your guidance is crucial.
Here are ways to ease the transition for young kids:

  • Keep explanations clear and simple.
  • Use a story to explain the move, or use toy trucks and furniture to act it out.
  • When you pack your toddler’s toys in boxes, make sure to explain that you aren’t throwing them away.
  • If your new home is nearby and vacant, go there to visit before the move and take a few toys over each time.
  • Hold off on getting rid of your child’s old bedroom furniture, which may provide a sense of comfort in the new house. It might even be a good idea to arrange furniture in a similar way in the new bedroom.
  • Avoid making other big changes during the move, like toilet training or advancing a toddler to a bed from a crib.
  • Arrange for your toddler or preschooler to stay with a babysitter on moving day.

Moving With School-Age Kids
Kids in elementary school may be relatively open to a move, but still need serious consideration and help throughout the transition.

There are two schools of thought about “”the right time to move.”” Some experts say that summer is the best time because it avoids disrupting the school year. Others say that midyear is better because a child can meet other kids right away.

To avoid glitches that would add stress, gather any information the new school will need to process the transfer. That may include the most recent report card or transcript, birth certificate, and medical records.

Moving With Teens
It’s common for teens to actively rebel against a move. Your teen has probably invested considerable energy in a particular social group and might be involved in a romantic relationship. A move may mean that your teen will miss a long-awaited event, like a prom.

It’s particularly important to let teens know that you want to hear their concerns and that you respect them. While blanket assurances may sound dismissive, it’s legitimate to suggest that the move can serve as rehearsal for future changes, like college or a new job. However, also be sure to let them know that you hear their concerns.

After the move, consider planning a visit back to the old neighborhood, if it’s feasible. Also, see if if the teen can return for events like prom or graduation events. If you’re moving midway through a school year, you might want to consider letting an older teen stay in the old location with a friend or relative, if that’s an option.

After Moving Day
After the move, try to get your child’s room in order before turning your attention to the rest of the house. Also, try to maintain your regular schedule for meals and bedtime to give kids a sense of familiarity.

When your child does start school, you may want to go along to meet as many teachers as possible or to introduce your child to the principal.

Set realistic expectations about the transition. Generally, teachers expect new kids to feel somewhat comfortable in their classes in about 6 weeks. Some kids need less time; others might need more.

After the move, if you’re still concerned about your child’s transition, a family therapist might provide some helpful guidance.

A move can present many challenges, but good things also come from this kind of change. Your family might grow closer and you may learn more about each other by going through it together.

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Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca  originally posted Dec 18, 2013.

Preventing Basement Leaks

If you have a basement, or even just a crawlspace, the last thing you want is water infiltrating the area. Even a minor leak can cause damage to walls and flooring, and may even lead to mould issues. Here are some precautions worth taking:

  • Every spring and fall, check the grading around your home. The ground should gently slope away from the foundation. Pay particular attention to areas where shrubs and other foliage make the grading difficult to see.
  • Look for cracks in the foundation. Get them fixed right away. Even a minor crack that doesn’t appear to penetrate all the way through can cause problems eventually.
  • Check the caulking on basement windows. If it’s worn and cracked, it’s time for recaulking. The lifespan of most exterior caulking is less than five years.
  • Watch the eaves troughs when it rains. (You’ll get wet, but it’s worth it.) Make sure the water drains well away from the foundation.

Doing these simple inspections takes just a few minutes. Yet, if they prevent a basement leak, it’s time well spent!”

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Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca 

Tips on How to Find a Reputable Contractor

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There are so many horror stories about disreputable or incompetent home improvement contactors that television shows have been made about them. Unless you want to be a guest on one of those programs, take steps to ensure you find a good contractor.

Here are some tips that will help:

1. Ask for references. Speak to the references.
2. Get a detailed written estimate of the work to be done, and make sure you understand all the terms and conditions.
3. Be wary of contractors who insist on large payments upfront. The payment plan should be reasonable and tied to work as completed.
4. Ask if the contractor is a member of any professional associations.
5. Don’t deal with a contractor who offers you a no-tax, cash-only deal.
6. Ask the contractor to get the appropriate permits before starting your project.

These tips won’t guarantee you’ll hire a reputable contractor, but they will increase the chances that you do.

Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca

The Little Known Secret All Home Owners Must Know

Refinance…

What a weird, confusing and funny word. What exactly does it mean, and why should you care? What if I told you that by “refinancing” your current mortgage could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long term. Would you want to learn more? I thought so.

What is it?

Refinancing is not new. I discovered that I myself never truly knew what a Re-Fi (or refinancing) a mortgage was truly about and how it can be beneficial. A Re-Fi is a replacement of an existing mortgage obligation with a different mortgage obligation under different terms. This means renegotiating your mortgage to replace it with more beneficial conditions. If you have purchased a home in the last few years, even up to the last year, a Re-Fi may be the best thing to happen to you.

Why should you care?

Most people think I refinance is only for people paying of credit cards or lines of credit, and although this is a GREAT idea, as serious money gets saved.  What most people don’t know, you don’t have to pay off credit cards to save.  If your mortgage is higher than 3.49%…you could be leaving ten of thousands on the table in interest.  Seriously, one of my clients saved $24,000!  Just by refinancing…simple.

Will it help you out?

Let’s put it into a easy to understand case study to see if it is worth exploring.

Imagine you took out a mortgage 2 years ago at 3.99% on a $230,000 mortgage.  If you were to  refinance that mortgage today, even after you paid the $4000 penalty for terminating your current agreement, you could save over $24,000 in the next 5 years. I will repeat that, $24,000 in the next 5 years.

I want to save $24,000…How do I do it?

It’s simple.  I will have one of my mortgage professional contact you.  Because you know me, they will do a mortgage analysis FREE OF CHARGE.  There is no obligation, and it is easy.

If you are currently in a 5 year term of a mortgage and have been underway in it for about 2 years or so, this is an avenue you definitely want to look down. This will benefit you long term, should the numbers work out, in lower monthly payments, paying off your principle faster, and of course, saving money over the long term.

Blog post provided by Darin Germyn Personal Real Estate Corporation, a REALTOR® with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit Darin’s blog at Germyn.ca  

Don’t Forget the Small Things Before Your Vacation Fun!

Are you planning on going on vacation soon? Now that the weather is finally sunny (sort of) and warm, and school is out for the kids, tis the summer season! Here are some tips to protect your home and save money (in the long run).

To decrease any chances of water damage from a running toilet, or leaky faucet, you may want to consider shutting off your water supply while you go away. If you have a fridge that has an ice maker, it might be a good idea to disconnect it, especially if you are going away for a long period of time. Sometimes the ice builds up and may potentially cause a problem with your fridge working efficiently and correctly. Don’t leave your washing machine or dishwasher running when you leave – again you just never know if something happens.
Turn off any alarm clocks so that you don’t annoy your neighbours! Turn off and disconnect computers, printers, iPOD docks and other items that continue to suck up your electricity and could potentially cause a fire. Check that the batteries in your smoke detectors are working or are replaced.

Cancel your newspaper delivery during your holidays. If you are expecting a package from canada post or fedex you may want to have a neighbour be a contact person for that delivery so that the package doesn’t sit at your front door too long and acts as an indicator to potential thieves.

Ask a neighbour, family member or friend to check your home if you are going away for more than a few days. Have them check for any gas smells, water leakage, anything out of the ordinary. Another option is to have someone you know house sit. It will give you relief knowing your home is being looked after.

These are just a few things to do to make your home safe while you are on holidays. Now go relax and enjoy your trip!

 

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

Liability Concerns When Renovating Your Home

An accident in which a roofer was killed when he fell through the skylight of former premier Gordon Campbell’s vacation home is highlighting a little-known piece of contract law that can have huge implications for homeowners.

In a report released publicly Monday, WorkSafeBC said Campbell, as the homeowner, became the “prime contractor” because he failed to assign that written role to the general contractor whose company was doing some renovations on his Sunshine Coast home last July. As a result, the former premier had the legal responsibility for coordinating and establishing compliance with health and safety requirements.

The accident occurred when David Lesko, an employee of Weather Tight Supplies Ltd., lost his balance and fell nearly 18 feet to his death. At the time he was wearing a fall arrest harness but had not secured it to an anchor point. Three other employees of the company were also on the roof, all without fall arrest equipment. Weather Tight was registered with WorkSafeBC, but in the past had been cited several times by the provincial agency for not complying with its acts and regulations.

WorkSafe spokeswoman Donna Freeman WorkSafe said Monday that Campbell was given a written order of what he must do to comply in future as a prime contractor. WorkSafe is also considering levying a penalty against Weather Tight, she said.

Paul Devine, a lawyer with Miller Thomson who specializes in health and safety law, said the accident illustrates how little homeowners know about their legal responsibilities when they hire contractors to do work around their home.

Most people don’t realize they should check to make sure the company they hire is registered with WorkSafe or that they are financially responsible if an unregistered worker is hurt on the job. They also have no clue that they should assign the role of prime contractor to the main company doing the work, Devine said.

“Most homeowners would go out and hire as a contractor and assume they would bring in all the subtrades and make sure they are looked after,” he said. “The problem is under the legislation it says you have to assign a prime contractor in writing and if you don’t the owner becomes the prime contractor. I don’t know that most people think past whether the hiring or whether this person is going to do a good job or the cost of it, rather than about the liability if somebody is injured. Generally speaking I don’t think homeowners think in those terms.”

In Campbell’s case, there were three separate companies working on his project, two groups of carpenters and the roofers. All were registered with WorkSafe. But because no one was assigned as prime contractor, the role of ensuring they all complied with health and safety regulations fell to Campbell, something investigators said the former premier was unaware of. Campbell was not on the site when the accident occurred.

Freeman said because Weather Tight was registered, WorkSafe covered the workers’ compensation insurance for Lesko. But she said in cases where contractors aren’t registered with WorkSafe, homeowners are fully liable for any compensation costs. She said there are fewer than five cases a year in which there are serious accidents or fatalities at an unregistered homeowner work site.

Campbell, who is now Canada’s High Commissioner to Britain and lives in London, did not return a telephone call asking for comment.

Devine said most people he encounters do not know they should make sure people they hire to work around their home are registered with WorkSafe. They leave themselves exposed to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation costs if someone is injured on the job.

“Do people understand if you are a homeowner that this liability can attach both as the employer and as potentially as a prime contractor? My experience is no,” said Devine. “I see the cases where people have not appreciated that these things are required and the direct liability that can occasion if they don’t make a simple inquiry.”

Devine said homeowners, whether they are hiring one or more contractors should always assign the role of prime contractor to one company. It may be that employees working for that roofing company you hire are independent contractors who don’t have WorkSafe registration, he said. In the case of an accident, the homeowner would become liable for those independents.

Freeman said homeowners can check WorkSafe’s online registration database to ensure their chosen contractor is registered. If it isn’t the homeowner can pay a modest assessment fee to make sure those workers on their property are covered. It is based on a formula of 5.19 per cent of payroll or labour costs.

Freeman cited two examples: if labour costs on the reno job are $20,000 for instance, registration insurance premiums would be $1, 038. A job that required $40,000 labour costs, registration insurance premiums would be $2,076.

 

Source: Vancouver Sun, March 6, 2012

Avoid Excessive Humidity in Your Home

Bathroom and kitchen fans are an important part of your home’s ventilation system. They remove odours from your home, which improves indoor air quality. Most importantly, they also remove moisture, which decreases the level of humidity in your home. High humidity can damage building materials, therefore the diligent use of these exhaust fans is essential.

In order to avoid lint build-up in the dryer vents, homeowners can clean the dryer’s lint trap after each individual load. In addition, the dryer should be run for ten more minutes after clothes are removed and traps cleaned in order to dry out any moisture in the ducts.

In the winter months, it is a good practise to open a window and allow moist warm air to escape and cold dry air to take its place.

Ensure that window coverings and interior doors are left open for the greater part of the day and don’t keep interior doors closed for extended periods of time.

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

Homeowners insurance: What you need to know

Nowadays, buying homeowners insurance takes a lot more than simply telling an insurance agent how much you paid for your house, and then walking away.

Anxious to get things right from the outset, insurers may insist on seeing a more detailed site plan, particularly for higher-end homes, and might send out appraisers for a first-hand look at the property.

Aside from a walk through, particularly in older houses, some appraisers are using infrared cameras and moisture meters to spot water damage and fire risk — something that helps keep unpleasant surprises to a minimum.

That examination might also include checking to see if the gutters are cleaned or helmeted, whether the flashing is adequate and whether the grading on your property carries water away from the house.

The purpose of all this scrutiny is three-fold. First, it gives your broker or agent the basis for determining the best insurance coverage for you so that you’re not over-insured, which is a waste of money, or under-insured, which is foolish in the extreme.

Secondly, insurance coverage appraisal reports serve as your record of value in the event of a loss and subsequent claim. These detailed documents generally focus on helping to estimate replacement value, which is the cost to restore a stolen, damaged or destroyed possession with one of similar quality.

Finally, getting things in writing provides the type of clear evidence you need to satisfy the “burden of proof” in the event of a claim. It also ensures that you and your adjuster/insurance company won’t end up at an impasse on the value of both your home and your valuables.

Insurance policies have strict requirements that require you to back up your claim with proof. When filing a loss claim, you’re expected to provide a complete inventory of items you’ve lost, along with the current value of each and every item.

When it comes to determining value, make sure you have your agent or broker go through your policy limitations in detail with you. They vary from insurance company to insurance company in terms of actual dollar amounts, the type of property and also whether the limitations apply to all types of losses, or just to certain types.

If disaster were to strike and all of the valuables in your home were stolen or damaged, would you be able to report the details accurately? Could you put your hands on supporting documentation such as receipts or invoices? Probably not — which is why, whether or not you have a formal appraisal, you should still be keeping track of things yourself.

You can’t go wrong, for instance, photographing or videotaping all your valuables and recording the make, model and serial numbers of any electronic devices.

Once you’ve done that, transfer all of the digital photo files onto a CD or memory stick and keep this in a safe place. You may also want to take the pictures to a good commercial printer and get two sets of prints for easy reference.

There are several popular software packages on the market that can help you here.

The Insurance Information Institute’s “Know Your Stuff” software, for instance, allows you to organize your possessions according to the room in which they’re located and provides lists of items that are typically found in certain rooms as a prompt. It also has the capacity to store digital photographs.

When making a record of your possessions, it’s essential to note expensive items such as jewellery, furs, collectables and other heirlooms since they may require additional coverage, according to the Institute.

But, it’s also a good idea to make note of more commonplace items such as toys, clothing and even towels and linens, since the cost of replacing these items can really add up if you suffer a major disaster.

Keep copies of any store receipts, appraisals for coins or jewellery, and any other documentation needed to support the purchase and cost of major items in your home. Consider photocopying certain original receipts that may fade over time.

Although perhaps lacking in financial value, personal items such as photographs, wills, diplomas, etc. should all be stored in a secure place away from your home (e.g. in a safety deposit box).

One last thing: Keep your appraisals current. Some insurance companies won’t accept an appraisal that is more than a few years old.

Click here to view the article.  Source: MSN News, www.msn.ca

 

Think green when shopping for a home

Purchasing a home involves making many decisions. How many bedrooms do you need? What neighbourhood do you want to live in? Should it be previously owned, brand new or custom-built?

Here’s one more thing to consider: is the home a “green” home? That is, does it have features that will save energy and water, reduce maintenance costs and waste, offer a healthy indoor environment and have a reduced impact on the earth?

With growing awareness around being green and making the right choices for the environment, it’s not surprising that more and more builders are constructing green homes.

In addition, homeowners are investing in upgrading their homes with green features to make them more energy efficient, comfortable as well as to increase the sales value.

All of this is good news for buyers who are looking for a home with a particular shade of green. Whether you’re looking at a home that is previously owned or one that is new, here are some things to consider:

Insulation: Next to a mortgage, energy costs can be one of the most significant household expenditures. An energy-efficient home conserves energy by reducing heat loss during the winter and heat gains during the summer.

One of the best ways to reduce heat loss and gain is to ensure ceilings, walls and foundations are well-insulated and draft-free. Energy Star windows and doors will also help keep your heating and cooling costs down while improving comfort.

Heating systems: A home with an older model heating system that operates at 65 to 75 per cent efficiency can realize significant cost savings by converting to a new energy efficient model that operates at 85 to 98 per cent efficiency.

Look for heating systems that use high efficiency motors as well to reduce electricity costs.

Water-efficiency: Water is a precious resource. Newer front loading clothes washers can use far less water than older top loaders.

They can save on water heating and clothes drying costs too. Also, ask if the home has low-or dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower and faucet fixtures.

Water use can be further reduced by limiting the amount of water required to maintain lawns and gardens through the use of hardy, indigenous plants, capturing rain water for irrigation and limiting lawn area.

Light fixtures: Energy-efficient lighting is an easy way to reduce your electrical consumption. Look for compact fluorescent lamps, which last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use one-third of the energy.

Durable building materials: When a building material requires frequent repair or replacing, it becomes both an environmental and economic burden.

Durable materials don’t need to be replaced or repaired as frequently and this reduces repair costs as well as the amount of resources consumed to supply the materials and the amount of material taken to landfills.

Look for things like exterior siding that doesn’t need frequent painting, roofing materials built to last for 20 years or more, and moisture-resistant finishes in bathrooms and kitchens.

Indoor Air Quality: Choose materials and finishes that have low odour and low pollutant emissions. A ventilation system that provides fresh outdoor air and deals with moisture and odours can also help maintain a healthy indoor environment.

One way to check the nearby destinations in any neighbourhood you’re considering on your green home hunt, is to visit www.walkscore.comand enter the address of the house you’re looking at.

This tool calculates a walkability score for that address based on its proximity to transit, grocery stores, schools and other amenities.

This is one element of sustainability that can be compared to other neighbourhoods.

 

Click here to view this article.  By Trevor Gloyn, Postmedia News – The Vancouver Sun.

Protecting Your Household Possessions

You never expect it to happen but sometimes your belongings may be stolen or destroyed. To protect your possessions in your home from theft or a fire or some sort of disaster, putting together a household inventory would be very useful. When it’s time to provide your home insurance company with a record of your items to make your claim, this will reduce your stress, anxiety and time during this process.

You probably received some nice gifts at Christmas, and now is just the time to record these items and put them into a list if not done already.

I’d suggest starting one room at a time, otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. And don’t try to do it all in one day. Also remember to include items in your garage, attic, basement or storage facility.

You can find lists online that you can print out or make your own spreadsheet and include the item’s serial and model numbers, purchase date, cost, where you bought it and attach any receipts you may have.

Take photos of the items, sometimes it’s good to have a family member in the photo to show ownership (if it’s an expensive item). Video is great too. You may also want to include copies of wills, passports, birth certificates and credit card info with the inventory list.

Once you are done with the list, keep a copy and put another copy in a safety deposit box. If you don’t have one, give a copy to a relative or friend to keep. It’s good to update this list every six months or so.

I hope you never have to go through this painful process of theft or a disaster in your home, but thought I’d bring this up, as it’s a new year, and a good time to protect your possessions.

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

Where to recycle common household items

It’s easy enough to recycle your newspapers, paper, cardboard, bottles, cans and plastics into your household recycling bins, but what about some common household items that you don’t want to throw in the garbage?  I was trying to find places to recycle my used batteries, light bulbs and plastic bags.

Recycling rechargeable batteries and cellphones have been established for quite some time now. However, just this past June, the provincial goverment set up a program to recycle alkaline and single use batteries. I don’t know why it took so long, but at least we have it now! You can drop them off at several locations, the most common places are: Home Depot, Rona, Future Shop, Best Buy and London Drugs. For more info check out www.call2recycle.ca.

 

It was a bit harder to find places that would take used light bulbs. Many places will take fluorescent tubes such as Home Depot and Rona but I just want to recycle the plain light bulbs! Edmonds Recycling will accept all types of light bulbs and batteries Their locations are in Langley, Surrey and Burnaby, open on weekdays during business hours – www.edmondsrecycling.com.

I wasn’t able to find a specific recycling program that accepts used plastic bags but some grocery stores have a bin in front of their stores to recycle bags such as Wal Mart and Superstore.

The Surrey Urban Farmers Market has a battery and printer cartridge recycle station. This market takes place every Wednesday from 1-6pm until September 29, 2010. They are located at the North Surrey Recreation Centre near the Surrey Central Skytrain. Their website is www.surreymarket.org.

The general recycling depot that accepts all kinds of electronics, batteries, computers and more can be found at 120-13065 84 Avenue in Surrey, open on weekdays. This is for all of Greater Vancouver. Their website contains the items they recycle at www.electronics-recycling.com. The Recycling Council of BC has a plethora of information as well. There is a drop down menu on the right hand side of their website where you can select the items you want to recycle and where you can find a place to recycle them. That’s very useful. The website is www.rcbc.bc.ca.

 

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

Moving Tips

Here’s a few tips/suggestions that we thought you might find useful when moving.

About a month before moving day:
– as a client of ours, you will receive a “Holmes Team After the Sale/Moving Checklist”
– call a moving company and book moving date
– notify post office for change of address
– notify school(s) of change of address
– contact your home insurance company to update info
– notify bank of change of address

A couple of weeks before moving day:
– contact your lawyer/notary to ensure they have all the information needed regarding the sale/purchase of your home
– arrange to have utilities disconnected at current home and connected at new home
– hold a garage sale to sell unwanted items
– arrange for transportation and care of your pets
– start packing and labeling boxes
– discontinue newspaper delivery
– plan to carry valuable documents/jewelery with you on moving day
– take down curtain rods, drapes and shelves

A day or two before moving day:
– confirm with Greg and Liz what time you will be leaving your home and moving to your new home
– clean fridge and oven
– finish packing personal items
– set aside items to go into your vehicle with you
– confirm contact information, address and moving time with movers
– verify that utilities have been/will be connected at new home

Moving day:
– have vacuum ready
– empty and clean out your fridge and freezer
– make a final inspection of house before leaving
– check all rooms, closets, cupboards and drawers
– get keys from Greg and Liz for your new place
– enjoy your new home!

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca

10 Home Repairs that Will Save You Money

Remodels are great, but can get pretty pricey. Not everyone has thousands to add value to their home – but what about those less glamorous repair projects on your to-do list? These simple and inexpensive maintenance items don’t seem like they add to your home’s value, but they’re big money-savers in the long run.

1. Caulk

If you’ve lived in your house a few years, you probably noticed that the caulk along your sinks, countertops and bathtub is coming loose. These gaps may not seem like a big deal, but they can wreak havoc inside your walls. Moisture causes mold and even leaks – expensive repairs that can easily be prevented. A tube of kitchen and bath caulk costs just a few dollars, and you’ll avoid expensive repairs.

 

2. Insulate

The quickest way to save money on your energy bill is to insulate, yet so many of us overlook this simple home improvement project for its benefits. Sure, your walls are insulated, but what about your basement, your attic, and your garage? Just in case the energy cost savings aren’t enticing enough for you, check with the government – there are current credits that allow you to deduct this energy-saving expense from your taxes. (Find out what you can do to improve your chances of having a quick sale, in Selling Your Home In A Down Market.)

3. Change Filters

When was the last time you changed your furnace’s air filters? It’s an oft-overlooked chore, but one that keep your furnace running efficiently, and improves the air quality inside your home. Change your filters at least every three months to keep your furnace working efficiently for years to come.

4. Install a Thermostat

Does your home have a programmable thermostat? If not, invest in one; it’ll earn its money back in no time. By programming heating and cooling, you avoid paying to keep an empty house at a comfortable temperature. Manage the heat appropriately in winter to avoid burst water pipes; in summer, draw your curtains during the day to keep the house cool. Buy a programmable thermostat and you can save big on monthly bills.

5. Fix Leaks

That leaky faucet or runny toilet is draining your water bill, and in most cases it’s a cheap and quick fix. Replace the washer on your faucet, and while you’re at it, consider installing a faucet aerator if yours doesn’t already have one. Faucet aerators reduce water flow from your faucet to save on your water bill; check your home improvement store for this inexpensive fix. (If you’re just looking to get rich quick, you could end up in the poorhouse. Find out how, in 5 Mistakes That Make House Flipping A Flop.)

6. Install Dimmers

Dimmers aren’t just for romance; they can save you big bucks on your energy bill. They’re cheap and easy to install, so look for rooms that could use a little reduction in harsh lighting. While you’re at it, replace your light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. They’re big money savers.

7. Clean Carpets

Clean your carpet lately? With proper care, carpets can last a long time and look great, but everyone needs to clean them sometime. You don’t need to hire an expensive service either – if you can vacuum, you can clean your carpets by yourself. Rent a carpet cleaner at your local supermarket or big-box store for a modest fee. Make sure you vacuum thoroughly before cleaning, and pick a dry day so your carpet dries quickly. With regular cleaning your carpet can last a long time, saving you big bucks on new flooring.

8. Clean Siding and Windows

Windows and siding get a beating in most climates. Wash your windows and siding with a simple hose and water first, and with a cleaning solution as needed; your home improvement store sells specialty products for just this kind of job. Rent a power washer for very dirty jobs. Keep an eye on cobwebs, wasp and bird nests to ensure your home’s exterior stays in good shape. Touch up with paint as needed, and your house will look like new at little or no cost. (Some renovations will mean a bigger sale price on your home, while others will just cost you. Find out more, in Will Your Home Remodel Pay Off?)

9. Fight Pests

Those spiders and ants at your foundation, that mouse nest in your crawl space? Take care of it – pests can destroy a home in a hurry. Hire an exterminator, or for small pests, combat with pesticides. Even if you don’t think you have a problem, inspect every part of the interior and exterior of your home regularly to avoid small pest problems getting out hand.

10. Clean Ductwork

If your home is older, your ductwork likely has dust, grime, and other unwelcome residue inside. For big jobs, pay a professional; a simple cleaning can easily be done yourself. Simply remove the grates from your air vents, and clean the inside with your vacuum.

The Bottom Line

The best way to invest in your home is to take good care of what’s already there. With these simple repair jobs, you’ll even save money – with just a little elbow grease as investment.

 

Source: The Globe and Mail, here are 10 simple home renovation ideas that can save you money in the long run. July 01 2010

How to Move the Green Way

If you are planning on moving and you would like to be more “green” or environmentally conscious, here are some ways to make that happen.

Ask your friends and family if they have any cardboard boxes you can use. Or maybe you have some already that are hidden in your storage locker or garage. Check with your local grocery store, liquor store, hardware store and the like for boxes. They may be in different sizes but that doesn’t matter, sometimes that works better for dishes or books etc.

At the office, photocopier/printer paper boxes are great boxes to use. They are not too big and are fairly strong too. Great boxes for stacking.

If you don’t want to use cardboard boxes, another option is renting moving crates. These are reusable plastic crates that are typically crushproof and stackable. There’s a cost to them, but usually the company rents them to you a couple of weeks before your move so you have them for about a month. They deliver them and then pick them up. No mess and no waste. Also check with your moving company, some of them provide this service as well.

 

What do you do about protecting your dishes, glassware or other breakables? You can use newspaper, used padded envelopes (from work) and old blankets and towels. (The latter may be a bit bulky whereas newspaper ink might get on your dishes).

Decreasing the amount of “stuff” that you have can help make your move easier on you. Hold a garage sale or put up items on Craigslist. Now, just remember not to accumulate too much stuff once you make your move! And the less stuff that you have, the smaller and lighter the moving vehicle will be and thus less gas that is burning.

Use environmentally friendly cleaning products. I like Method and Attitude products (which you can get at Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs and Superstore).

If you do use cardboard boxes for moving, think of recycling them or reusing to a friend or coworker that will be moving in the future.

Good luck with your move!

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Blog post provided by Greg & Liz Holmes, a REALTOR® Team with Macdonald Realty in South Surrey / White Rock.   Visit The Holmes Team blog at holmesteam.ca