Friday, April 24, 2015

Water Loss Prevention: Top 10 Tips for Homeowners to Prevent Flooding

Guest Blogger - Alex Byrne, The Co-operators Insurance - Water-related loss is the most common home insurance claim in Canada. It is also among the most expensive types of loss. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Canadian insurers pay an average of 1.7 billion each year due to water-related home insurance claims.
Every home is at risk of basement flooding, even if you have never experienced flooding in the past. Water in your basement is most likely to occur when there has been heavy rainfall, snow melting, or during a spring thaw. No one can control the weather but there are some steps that you can take to prevent, or at least reduce the chance of water damage.

To help you start thinking about steps as a homeowner that you can take to help prevent water damage in your home, check out the list below: 

10 tips for homeowners to help prevent basement flooding

  1. Contact your local government to get information on any available programs on reducing basement flooding.
  2. Have a plumbing inspection done on your home to determine best options based on the plumbing and sewer connections of your home. These can include:
    1. Installing a backwater valve.
    2. Installing an automatic back-up pump to your existing sump pump if you have one. Batteries or a generator can be used to power the back-up pump.
  3. Improve the drainage outside of your home by:
    1. Keeping weeping tiles clear and in good repair.
    2. Making sure your downspouts drain water away from your house.
    3. Disconnecting downspouts from sewers.
    4. Making sure your grading allows for correct drainage.
    5. Install window wells at basement windows to create an extra barrier to keep water out.
    6. Keeping outside drains clear.
  4. Use a rain barrel to catch water run-off from downspouts.
  5. Avoid storing items directly on the basement floor. Always store on shelves and in watertight plastic containers, whenever possible.
  6. Make sure you have at least one floor drain in the same room as your washing machine.
  7. Avoid pouring all fats, oils and grease down your drains. You would be surprised how quickly the deposits add up, and can cause a blocked drain or pipe.
  8. Check that hoses on dishwashers and washing machines are made of braided stainless steel.
  9. If you have a water dispenser and/or ice maker in your refrigerator, make sure the water line uses either copper or braided stainless steel.
  10. Seal any cracks in foundation walls and basement floors.
Benefits of loss prevention
We all know that accidents and storms happen; but you can play a vital role in preventing water damage to your property. Take action to try and limit potential damage to your property. Some benefits of loss prevention may include:
  • Possible discounts
  • Access to higher limits of coverage 
  • Potential municipal programs available to compensate homeowners who install loss prevention devices (refer to your local municipality for information on programs).
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When the personal becomes professional: Assembling your home buying team

Most of you would agree that meeting the love of your life is a monumental event. From observing my clients over the last thirty years, I’d argue that falling in love with a home runs a close second. Walking into a new home or model and feeling your pulse quicken is a magical sensation. When you feel a strong personal connection with a certain place, you won’t sleep until it’s yours.

It may seem strange that such a personal experience involves working with so many other people. But when you’re making the biggest financial investment of your life, it’s always wise to depend on the advice and expertise of professionals. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may consider consulting with the following:

Mortgage Specialist
: Ideally, you will have met with a mortgage broker or mortgage specialist from your bank or lending institution prior to beginning your home hunt. Understanding how much money you have to work with is an excellent first step to narrowing your search, and obtaining a pre-approved mortgage can save both time and grief in the long run.

While it’s possible to purchase a new home without the assistance of a realtor, there are several benefits – and no drawbacks – to having a real estate professional in your court. Realtors understand the market better than anyone else, and can provide terrific insights on neighbourhoods, investment values and negotiating with a builder. Best of all, there’s NO COST associated with hiring a realtor to purchase a home.

Real Estate Lawyer:
This is an absolute must. A good lawyer will walk you through the paperwork, explain fees, and protect you from real estate fraud.

Home Inspector
: Because new homes in Ontario are covered under the Tarion Warranty, and because a pre-delivery inspection with the builder is part of the new home buying process, many purchasers of new homes choose not to hire a home inspector. However, I often encourage my clients to spend the few hundred dollars it costs to ensure that their new home has been built to code.

Most homebuyers are smart cookies. But, in matters of love, the heart rules the head. That’s why, when it comes to buying a home, it pays to have professionals do some of the thinking for you.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Give Yourself Credit: A Beginner’s Guide to Arranging a Mortgage

Over the years, I’ve worked with clients whose ease with numbers would make your head spin - from accountants to engineers. But, in my experience, such “mathletes” are far outnumbered by those of us who face financial calculations with apprehension.

Thank heaven for mortgage specialists. Whether you opt to go through a broker or your financial institution, a good specialist will guide you through the intricacies of choosing a mortgage with patience and know-how.

Remember that mortgage pre-approval is the way to go. This means visiting your specialist before shopping for a home, and obtaining a realistic budget to work from. Pre-approval also speeds up the purchasing process once you’ve found your perfect home.

In comparison with the early 80s, when mortgage rates surpassed 20%, today’s rates – which tend to hover below 4% – seem astonishingly low. But substantial savings can still be found by choosing certain mortgage features over others. Here are some of the most basic options you’ll encounter:

Term Length: A term is a set length of time, typically ranging from one to ten years, in which a certain mortgage rate applies. At the term’s end, you’ll renew your mortgage for another term. The shorter the term, the lower the interest rate; however, by choosing a longer term, you’re insuring yourself against the possibility of skyrocketing mortgage rates in the future.

Fixed rates, variable rates and capped rates: A fixed interest rate remains the same throughout the term, while a variable rate rises and falls along with prime rate. While the second option means accepting some unpredictability, it may yield greater savings than a fixed rate. A capped rate is a type of variable rate that cannot exceed a set upper limit. If interest rates are low but you’re facing a longer closing date, you may choose to be locked into a capped rate, which will apply once your mortgage payments begin.

Frequency of payments: Most lenders offer weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly payments. While, at first glance, the difference between bi-weekly payments (every other week) and semi-monthly (twice a month) may seem unimportant, it works out to two more payments per year. Ultimately, those extra installments could take a couple of years off the life of your mortgage.
Of course, there are many more mortgage features that your specialist can introduce to you. Trust me: by the end of the process, you’ll feel like a specialist yourself.

To receive a FREE copy of a new special report titled "Homebuyers: How to Save Thousands of Dollars When You Buy" email

Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Room of His Own: The Man Cave

More and more often, I’m meeting male clients who toss the term “man cave” around when listing the features they’re looking for in a home. For some, the man cave is meant to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of family life – a place to crack open a beer and watch the game in peace. Others are more interested in a place to entertain their buddies, where Superbowl parties and poker games reign supreme.

For reasons of space and noise containment, man caves tend to be located in the basement. New homes are ideal for this purpose, as today’s basements offer great head clearance; as well, there’s no better way to customize a space than from the ground up

There are all sorts of gimmicky man caves featured in magazines, with d├ęcor chosen along a specific theme: golf, for instance, or vintage cars. That’s great, if it makes you happy. But I’d like to address a few of the features that will give your space real staying power:

  • If watching sports and movies is important to you, talk to your builder about installing an in-wall audio system and wiring the room for your wall-mounted television or projector.
  • Lighting should be plentiful. While an overhead light can be useful, you’ll likely get more use from pot lights on a dimmer switch, combined with floor and table lamps. Consider appropriate fixtures above a pool table or bar.
  • Wall colours are traditionally deep and warm; this is a place to be cozy and relaxed, not hyper-alert. Carpet underfoot should be plush, with a great underpad. 
  • Consider how you’ll entertain. If asked, most builders will install a bar, or an in-wall fridge for beer or wine. The more work you can hand over to your builder, the sooner you can tilt back that recliner and soak up the manly vibe.
After watching countless couples negotiate their “must-have” list, I’ve come to believe that women have something to gain from the man cave. I’ve found that many women are happy to hand over this chunk of their home’s square footage because, having gotten what they want, the men are content to let their partners take charge of design decisions in the rest of the home. When a trade-off like this can actually ease marital tensions, everybody wins!

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