Blog

New home? Here’s How to Save

When you’ve just purchased a new home, there’s a ton on your mind. There’s moving, decorating, getting to know your new neighborhood, and more. Here are a few things that should be at the top of your to-do list, because they’ll save you a lot of money.

Check on your water heater
Set your water heater for 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty hot enough for bathing, washing dishes, and any other household use of hot water, so heating water above 120 degrees is a waste of energy and money. And if your water heater is an older model, it’s worthwhile to invest in a water heater blanket to keep it insulated.

Replace air filters
Sellers often put in a lot of cosmetic work to get the home move-in ready, but they often skip or forget about air filters in the HVAC system. Filters can be found at your local hardware store (just make sure to get the right size) and are easy to replace. Doing so will improve air flow and quality, and save on energy costs.

Get a smart thermostat
A smart thermostat, such as Nest, will cost you some money up front but is well worth the long-term savings. It’s programmable so that your AC and furnace run at lower levels when you’re not home, so you’re not wasting money to cool or heat an empty house.

Set up a space to air-dry clothes
Whether it’s a rack in your laundry room or a clothesline in the back yard, air-drying clothes is a big money saver over even the most energy-efficient dryers. Air-drying your garments will also help them last much longer.

Check for leaks and running toilets
A leaky faucet or a constantly-running toilet will use up water unnecessarily, and that’ll show up on your utility bill. And in the worst case, they’ll cause expensive water damage and mold.


Buying a home? Avoid these comments!

 

Sometimes you need to keep a poker face when you’re buying a home. If you have contact with the seller and/or listing agent, it’s not in your best interest to be totally candid with them (and here is where working with a buyer representative can come in handy!). Here a few things that are better left unsaid.

“This is at the top end of our budget”: Don’t let the listing agent know that a home is at the top of your budget. You want to keep all the bargaining chips you can, and letting the seller know your budget can hurt you when it comes time to negotiate.

“I hate the paint”: Or furniture. Or cabinets. Or any of the decor. No matter how hideous the wallpaper in the kitchen is, take care not to insult the seller’s taste. If they’re considering multiple offers, you don’t want to be the buyer that offended the seller!

“We can’t wait to renovate”: Customization is one of the big perks of homeownership, but it’s best to keep your renovation plans quiet for the moment. The seller may have a lot of memories in the home, and may not appreciate your plans to immediately tear down some walls.


Five maintenance resolutions for your home

We may be a little removed from New Year’s Day, but it’s not too late to make some 2016 resolutions for yourhome.

1. Start a home repair slush fund: Things in your home are going to break and need to fixed. It’s just a fact that comes with home ownership. Rather than letting expensive repairs take you by surprise, start planning for them. Set aside some money each month that you can eventually draw from when an appliance breaks or unexpected damage occurs.

2. Inspect your fireplace: Even if you have a gas fireplace, you should still inspect the valves and ceramic logs yearly to ensure that everything is operating safely and correctly. If you have wood fireplace, hire a certified chimney sweep to do the job.

3. Maintain your garage door: Garage doors are big and heavy, and that puts a lot of stress on the hinges and tracks that are use to open and close the door several times a day. A regularly scheduled $50 inspection could save you hundreds or thousands in the long run.

4.Tune up your furnace: Regular furnace inspections will help identify minor problems before they turn into major ones. Also, set reminders to replace your furnace filter.

5. Clean your coils: The No. 1 refrigerator maintenance task should be cleaning the condenser coils. They can get clogged with hair and dust, reducing your fridge’s efficiency. Have you cleaned yours lately? You can hire a professional to do it, but it’s also an easy do-it-yourself job.


Don’t forget about homeowner tax breaks!

A New Year means tax season is right around the corner. One of the many perks of homeownership is potential big tax breaks. So whether you’re doing your taxes yourself or getting help from a professional, it’s important to take advantage of those breaks!

Home Office:

There are specific criteria that have to be met in order to deduct home office expenses, but it can lead to a very large deduction. In general, your home office has to be used specifically for business purposes. Check with a tax professional to see if your home office qualifies for a deduction—it’s a little extra work, but can make a big difference in your tax responsibility. Examples of the type of expenses that you can claim include heating, home insurance, electricity and cleaning materials.

Accessibility:

Renovations that make homes safer or more accessible for seniors or the disabled may qualify for a new tax credit in 2016. If you are a senior or hold a valid disability tax certificate or are supporting a qualifying individual, up to $10,000 in expenses can be claimed under the Home Accessibility Tax Credit.

Rental income:

If you rent a property you own or that you have use of, use the T776 tax form to report rental income and claim allowable expenses such as advertising, insurance and interest on money you borrow to buy or improve the property.

Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit:

This credit helps low- to moderate-income individuals with property taxes and the sales tax on energy.  Visit the Ministry of Finance website for more information about qualifications.


Happier Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors make for a beautiful, stunning addition to your home. However, they can bring new cleaning and maintenance challenges that aren’t present with carpet. Here are some tips for simple, efficient, and thorough hardwood floor cleaning.

Make the job easier
Place mats on either side of your exterior doors and always remove your shoes before entering your home—and make sure your guests do the same. Protect the floors by placing felt (or similar) protectors on the feet of your furniture, and use area rugs to designate play areas for the kids. This will reduce extra dirt, dust, and floor scratches.

Weekly cleaning
Sweeping with a standard broom will remove some dirt and dust, but not as much as a mop, wipe, or broom that’s been treated with a dusting agent such as a Swiffer. You could also invest in a vacuum that is designed for hardwood floors. Just be sure that the vacuum won’t leave scratches!

Deeper cleaning
Regular sweeping will remove most dirt and dust, but occasionally you’ll need to give the floors a deeper cleaning to remove the dirt and grime that builds up in your floors’ seams. Use a wood-cleaning soap to thoroughly mop your floors, but make sure the mop isn’t sopping wet—you don’t want to leave standing water.

Spots and scuffs
Most of the marks that occasionally show up on your floors, such as scuffs from rubber soles on boots and shoes—can be wiped away with a rag or very fine steel wool.


Priority tasks for your move in

 

Moving into a new home is an exciting time, and you’re probably daydreaming about decor and paint schemes and new furniture. But before you get into the fun stuff, there are some basics you should cover first.

Change the locks
Even if you’re promised that new locks have been installed in your home, you can never be too careful. It’s worth the money to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no one else has the keys to your home. Changing the locks can be a DIY project, or you can call in a locksmith for a little extra money.

Steam clean the carpets It’s good to get a fresh start with your floors before you start decorating. The previous owners may have had pets, young children, or just some plain old clumsiness. Take the time to steam clean the carpets so that your floors are free of stains and allergens. It’s pretty easy and affordable to rent a steam cleaner—your local grocery store may have them available.

Call an exterminator
Prior to move-in, you probably haven’t spent enough time in the house to get a view of any pests that may be lurking. Check in cupboards, basements, and anywhere else a pest might hide Call an exterminator to take care of any mice, insects, and other critters that may be hiding in your home.

Clean out the kitchen
If the previous occupants wanted to skip on some of their cleaning duties when they moved out, the kitchen is where they probably cut corners. Wipe down the inside of cabinets, clean out the refrigerator, clean the oven, and clean in the nooks and crannies underneath the appliances.


Let It Snow!

With winter right around the corner, snow, slush and cold temperatures will be a daily occurrence. We all dread the drive into work or the drive home when there has been a heavy snow fall or freezing rain.  If you are selling your home during the winter, here are some tips to make your home more appealing to buyers in this snowy weather:

Entry Way:

Place a boot tray or mat in your front entry way with enough room for a few spare pairs of snowy boots. Conscientious buyers and showing agents will always remove their footwear when touring your home, but it’s nice to contain any potential mess at the front door!

Shoveling & Salt:

Be sure to regularly shovel and salt your driveway and walkways to all doors of your home, especially if the home you’re selling will be vacant at the time! It’s easy to let the ice pile up at a vacant property – but slipping and falling in the driveway is a bad first impression for potential buyers, no matter how nice your home may be on the inside! If your home is vacant, or if you’ll be out of town for any length of time, consider hiring a snow removal service or neighbourhood teen to look after your driveway.

 

 


What to look for when you’re buying a robot vacuum cleaner

Technology is most helpful when it makes daily tasks easier and more efficient, and that’s most certainly the case with robot vacuum cleaners. It’s especially true if you’re in a climate that lends itself to lots of dust on your hard-surfaced floors or in your carpet.

Robot vacuum cleaners typically retail from $100 to about $700, and if you’re interested in having your home swept and vacuumed daily with little effort on your part, it’s a great investment. Here’s what to look for if you’re shopping for a robot vacuum cleaner.

Battery life
The best robot vacuums can run for two hours or longer. That’s particularly important if you have a big place—you don’t want to have to keep recharging your vacuum between cleanings. It’s especially convenient if you have a vacuum that can automatically dock and recharge between uses.

Cleaning patterns
Simpler, more inexpensive vacuums may only clean in a random or back-and-forth pattern, while more advanced vacuums can virtually map a room for more precise cleaning. It’s also better if the vacuum is capable of making multiple passes in its pattern, as it’ll lead to a more thorough cleaning job.

Size and design
Most robot vacuum cleaners are no more than four inches tall, so they can move under furniture. Still, pay attention to the height of your vacuum and the clearance of your furniture, so that you don’t end up with a vacuum that can’t get to important spots. Also, consider your floor type—some vacuums are better-suited for hardwood floors and tile, while others are better for carpeted floors.


Five lighting tips for basements

Making your basement an enjoyable place to spend time can be tricky. Without the right lighting it may feel too much like a dungeon (unless you’re into that!). Here are a few quick tips.

1. Maximize the natural lighting. Trim back shrubs and other plants that block sunlight from window wells. If the window well has a cover, keep it clean or replace a cover that blocks light with one that lets light pass through.

2. Choose light colors for walls, carpet and furniture. As much as we all miss the dark brown faux wood paneling from the ‘70s it doesn’t do much to create a bright space.

3. Accent Lighting. This will not only make the space brighter, it also makes the space feel less like a basement because lamps make the space feel decorated and lived in.

4. Light Bulbs. Depending on the types of fixtures in the basement there are various new types of lightbulbs. Consider talking to a lighting expert to find which type of bulb is going to give you the best results.

5. Create a false lighted window. This is simpler and more effective than you might think. Just frame and trim a “window” on a basement wall, and use creative lighting and decor (blinds, reflective paint, daylight spectrum bulbs) to make the light coming from the window look natural.


How to avoid vacation rental scams

how to

 

Home sharing websites like AirBnB are great for getting the most out of your vacation. Home sharing often saves a lot of money compared to similar lodging arrangements at hotels, and it gives you an opportunity to be part of a new neighborhood during your stay.

The downside is that there’s a bigger chance of encountering a scam. No one wants to have their vacation ruined by a fake rental listing, so here are a few easy tips to avoid scams.

Be skeptical of photos: If a property’s photos look a little too good, ask for additional photos. Photoshop and photography expertise can hide a lot of warts.

Only book with a credit card: Scammers prefer to operate with cash. You have a better chance of recovering your money if you only book with credit cards through trusted sites like airbnb.com.

Read the reviews: Sites like AirBNB and VRBO have customer reviews for each property. Read them to ensure that the rental is as good it seems—or that it even exists in the first place.


← Older posts