Archives for July 2013

Home Owner Tips – Want To Add Value To Your Home? Plant A Tree

Trees are amazing. They reduce air conditioning needs by up to 30 per cent. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us to breathe. They prevent soil erosion and provide habitat to many other organisms. Trees outside hospital windows can actually improve how quickly patients recover. But did you know that trees can also add thousands of dollars of to the value to your home?

Studies show that trees on properties add value by increasing a home’s curb appeal and also adding to a neighbourhood’s “walkability” score. Trees have also been associated with lower crime rates and reduced tenant turnover.

Talk to your local nursery or visit the Tree Atlas at the Ministry of Natural Resources (www.mnr.gov.on.ca) to find a native tree species that will work best for your home. Native species have adapted to the Ontario climate and will thrive in our conditions. There are so many beautiful species to choose from, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.

The best time to plant a tree is late fall, after the leaves have dropped. Early spring is the second choice, before the buds have opened. Mid-summer’s heat will make it difficult for your new tree to get enough water to thrive. Choose a level site a minimum of 10 ft. away from any structure, depending on the species you’ve selected. Avoid overheard wires and underground pipes as well. A tree on the north side is a good windbreak. A tree on the south or west will help with cooling.

Dig a hole the same depth, but three times as wide, as the tree’s root ball, removing all stones and debris. Set the tree carefully into the hold and backfill the hole with topsoil and/or compost. Water your tree thoroughly and water twice per week for 30 minutes each time for the first season. It’s a good idea to mulch your tree to retain that moisture. Your local nursery will be able to guide you in what fertilizer may be required. They may also plant the tree for you for a fee.

Take advantage of all trees have to offer and plant a tree – you’ll add value to your home and the environment.
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Home Owner Tips – Keep Your Eavestroughs Clean To Prevent Costly Damage To Your Home

Often homeowners neglect exterior items of their home, like the eavestroughs (gutters) and downpipes. But neglecting them can lead to serious problems with both the home’s interior and exterior. That’s why it is extremely important to keep up annual outdoor maintenance on your home to avoid costly problems later on.

If your roof gutters are too high for you to safely take care of yourself, you can always hire a professional for the job. If it’s something that you feel you can safely do yourself, here are some things to keep in mind when caring for your eavestroughs.

Be sure to clean out your eavestroughs at least twice a year. It is important to do this before the temperature drops below freezing, so remember to schedule this in for the fall and then again in the spring.

The gutters need to be cleared of any debris and make sure the drains to the downpipes are open. Clogged gutters can cause many issues like discolouring your siding or causing leaks inside your home. Even something as simple as leaving rotting leaves in there can rot wood fascia, damage shingles, and break the eavestrough itself.

Safely climb up on a ladder to inspect the eavestroughs and see what debris may be clogging them up. You should wear gloves when clearing them out because of sharp metal bits that could be in there or use a garden hand shovel to get out dirt and leaves and put them into a bag that you can hang on the ladder. Once everything is cleaned out, wash the gutters out with a hose and the water should drain properly down the pipe. You can always install mesh screens or leaf guards to make this job easier in the future. If you can, also open any downpipes that have been crushed at the ground. Another thing to inspect is the eavestrough’s nails and then hammer in any loose ones back into the fascia.

Taking the time to inspect and maintain your home’s eavestroughs will help protect your home from precipitation and help minimize water damage to the outside and inside of your home.
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Home Owner Tips – Do You Need A New Roof?

Keeping a roof over our heads is a basic human need, but many people spend sleepless nights worrying about whether that roof is leaking. How can a homeowner know for certain whether it’s time to replace their roof?

Roofing contractors and home inspectors recommend that you inspect your asphalt-shingled roof twice each year – spring and fall. This can be done at the same time that you clean out your gutters.

Start by grabbing a flashlight and visiting your attic. Look for sagging in the roof deck, signs of water penetration, especially around chimneys or in valleys, dark spots or trails and outside light showing. Also look for mold. If you see any of these telltale signs, your roof needs help.

Now, take a tour of the outside of your house. It’s safer to inspect your roof from the ground rather than using a ladder, unless you have appropriate safety equipment. Look for missing or broken shingles, or curling or cupping shingles. These will show up first on the south-facing side of your roof where the sun beats down. Missing or broken shingles may be storm damage that can be repaired rather than having to replace the entire roof. Check your eavestrough downspouts for any loose granules that have come off your shingles. Once these start to appear, it’s a sure sign that the roof is nearing the end of its lifespan, depending on your area’s weather conditions and the quality of the current shingles.

Look carefully at the flashing around your chimney, vents and any roof valleys. Rusting flashing and cracking sealants can let water penetrate and cause leaks inside your home. This is also a good time to inspect the seals around your windows and doors, as well.

If you see evidence of your roof’s age, it might be time to call a few roofing contractors for some estimates. You need to protect that roof over your head and get a good night’s sleep.

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Settling In To Your New Neighbourhood

Many people, especially those with school-age children, try to plan their move day before that September rush. Regardless of when you’ve landed in your new home, what can you do to help you and your family settle in more quickly?

Even before you move, use the Internet to tour your new area. Google Maps has a street view of nearly everywhere now. You can see your new house and take a virtual walk down the street. Make a note of the location of coffee shops, community centres, your kid’s schools, playgrounds, the grocery store and all those daily essentials.

Connect with your children’s schools as soon as possible. If possible, take your children to tour their school in June before the school year ends so they can see where their classroom will be, meet the teachers and maybe even make new friends. If that isn’t possible, teachers are usually back at school a week or two before Labour Day and may allow a quick visit then. Teachers and principals are fantastic resources to help you find parents groups, walking school buses and other school-related community events.

Plan a “tourist day” with your family. Contact the local tourist office or city hall and get a map of the area. Then, walk around and visit the local cafés, ice cream shops, the library and the community centre. Chat with the shop owners and introduce yourself as new to the area. People are generally very happy to share their knowledge about their hometown.

Community centres and your local library often have great summer programs for kids and families that will help you meet people. Make sure you sign up for your community newspaper as well. Make a promise to yourself to meet one new person a week. It will make a huge difference in making your new community home.

Spend time in your front yard. You’ll have more opportunity to meet your neighbours. Don’t be afraid to knock on your neighbours’ doors and introduce yourself, as well.

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Before You Buy, Be Sure You Understand – And Can Afford – Your Condo Fees

Property market business investmentCondominium maintenance fees are a monthly charge the owner of a unit must pay to cover the costs of items such as building insurance, upkeep, repairs to common areas including the grounds, the heating and cooling system, water and sewer pipes and property taxes. A portion of those monthly fees are also set aside and put in a reserve fund, or rainy day savings account, for future expenses like a new roof or furnace.

In Ontario, when you buy a condo, your maintenance fee is predetermined by the developer and is outlined in the Schedule of Declaration. Based on the size of each unit, a percentage of the common expenses is allocated to each unit so that the sum of the whole adds up to 100 per cent.

A budget is then drawn describing and adding up all expenditures that the condo corporation will incur for a year. Each suite is then assessed its annual proportion of these expenditures. For example, if your annual fee is determined to be $2,000 a year, that’s $166.67 to be paid on the first of every month.

If the budget does not change, the maintenance fee stays the same. But if costs increase by two per cent then all owners’ fees will increase by two per cent.

Special assessments could also drive up maintenance fees. It’s an additional payment a condo board imposes on unit owners when there’s an unexpected shortfall or expense to be covered and there’s not enough in the savings to pay the bill. For example, a flood in the basement or wind damage to the grounds could prompt the extra payment. Just like monthly maintenance fees, condo owners must pay special assessments. Owners can’t vote on whether or not to levy that assessment.

Like maintenance fees, special assessments are proportional. A smaller suite will pay less than a larger one.

In Ontario, special assessments are more commonly enacted in condos built before 2001, when the Condo Act didn’t enforce boards to do reserve fund studies, which, like a home inspection, roots out potential problems in the future and ensures there’s enough money saved to cover those costs.

Before you purchase a condo, be sure you know how much you will have to pay in condo fees. Your realtor and lawyer will help you decide if the fees are reasonable and if the condo fund appears to be managed properly.

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Understand What Your Home Insurance Policy Covers Before Disaster Strikes

Claims adjuster talking to woman in kitchen damaged by fireThe June flooding in Alberta and Toronto’s recent 100+mm rainfall in a single day has people worried about how record rainfall, flooding and sewer backups will affect them in the future. Many home owners are wondering if their home insurance policies will cover such damage.

There are many causes of home flooding and it’s important to know what your home policy covers. It’s also important to understand the difference between the insurance distinctions between water damage and flooding.

Simple water damage due to common flooding, such as burst pipes, a leak in your roof or a broken water heater, are usually covered. Some policies may have additional coverage, for an additional fee, for sewer backups and the corresponding cleanup. This is especially important due to the contamination and mold issues that are hand-in-hand with this type of damage.

On the other hand, overland flooding, such as that from excessive rainfall, is very likely not covered under a standard policy.

Some water damage extension policies may cover a range of expenses in an official flood. Additional living expenses if you’re forced to flee your home and even spoiled food in the fridge and freezer from power outages can be covered in these extension policies.

Review your homeowner’s policy and discuss your coverage in detail with your broker. Be aware that if you are in a high-risk area, such as on a flood plain or near a lake or river, you will pay much higher premiums and corresponding deductibles. Some Toronto residents are discovering that they are not covered, or that their deductibles are too high to make claims worthwhile, so review your policy thoroughly and make any necessary revisions.

As with so many things with home ownership, it’s important to read your documentation carefully and discuss policies with your representative long before you may need to make a claim.

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Thank-you for reading our article about “Understand What Your Home Insurance Policy Covers Before Disaster Strikes”, contact us if you need anything or leave us a comment below.