Caring for Your Port Credit Lorne Park Clarkson Home

10 Tips to Help Allergy-Proof Your Home

No one likes the feeling of itchy, watery eyes and stuffy nose. But that’s exactly what happens to an allergy sufferer when they encounter the allergen that they’re sensitive to. It is possible to reduce the suffering caused by allergy by making some changes to your home. Here are 10 tips to help you get started.

Flooring: Remove carpet and install hardwood or tile. These materials are less prone to harbor allergens. Vacuum weekly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. If removing carpet isn’t an option, steam clean often to kill dust mites and remove stubborn allergens such as pet dander.

Window coverings: Remove horizontal blinds that collect dust and are difficult to clean, and replace with washable curtains or easy-to-wipe roller blinds.

Bedding: Dust mites love bedding. To beat the mites, use dust-mite-proof covers on mattresses and pillows. Replace feather down duvets with washable comforters and wash bedding weekly in the hottest temperatures your washer and dryer will do.

Tidy up and put things away: Clutter collects dust and prevents thorough cleaning.

Furniture: Forego upholstery for leather, wood or other non-porous materials.

Air filter: Replace the filter in your furnace with a HEPA filter to trap more airborne allergens.

Ventilation: Install adequate ventilation in bathrooms to reduce moisture and prevent the growth of mold.

Cleaning routine: Clean weekly to reduce the spread of dust and mold.

Close windows: During pollen season, close the windows and turn on the A/C.

Bedroom first: Since you probably spend more hours in the bedroom than any other room in your home, focus on allergy proofing the bedroom first.

Old Adages and TV Home Renovation Shows

Prior to becoming a REALTOR® I spent a few years in the business of making television commercials. I’m familiar with some of the tricks of the trade. I can make food shiny and delicious (whilst also inedible) for the camera. I know how to make “fake” steam. I’ve been on enough television sets to know that, although things may look real, just beyond the view of the camera things are not real at all.

So I think its stands to reason that the same could be said about TV Renovation shows. It is after all a “show” and the producers need to take some liberties in order to make it work.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I’m always amazed at the price at which TV renos seem to be done. I’ve never seen prices like that in my experience. There are a few reasons why the price on TV reno shows may be misleading.

• Generally, the costs don’t include labour. On some shows, tradespeople work for free in exchange for the on-air exposure.
• Materials are either “at cost” or, in some cases, entirely donated. An individual paying retail cost of goods could never hope to get material so cheaply.
• While at the end reveal, a fully dressed room is revealed, the “cost” to the homeowner rarely includes design work or furniture and décor items; those costs are generally covered by the production company.

Things are not always what they seem.

Compared to real life, TV Renos are quick. The families don’t appear to be the slightest bit inconvenienced. The crew arrives, works and disappears.

Not realistic. Real renovations take time.

• In real life there may be delays. Building permits can take weeks or even months. Chosen materials may be on back order. The crew may uncover a problem (faulty electrical, asbestos, water damage, etc.) that needs to be addressed before moving forward.
• Your really good contractor may have a few jobs ahead of yours to complete. If a contractor is available to start right away, you might want to check his references before giving him the job.
• Although the camera only shows a few key people working on the TV Reno project, there may be a large number of trades working behind the scenes in order to help stick to a deadline.

All that glitters is not gold

At the end of a TV Reno, the place always looks great! And did I mention it was quick too.

• The camera can’t see whether the workmanship is high quality or if they have cut corners to remain on time and on budget.

If it feels like I’m condemning TV Reno shows, I’m not. I’m as enthralled watching them as the next person. But people should use their heads and recognize these show for what they are - entertainment.

Designing for Dogs

My family includes two dogs and a cat and, while I cherish them, it does make it more difficult to keep the house clean.  If I had the ability to go back and redesign my home, there are a few things I’d do differently to make living with the dogs a bit easier.  Here are some thoughts:

Flooring material.  Dogs can cause a great deal of wear and tear on floors - without the right type of flooring material they will soon leave their mark – one way or another.  Most types of carpet are poor options, trapping pet dander, hair and odours.  

Good:  Area rugs or carpet tiles (which can be replaced easily) are good options. 

Better:  Wood floors are more resilient than carpet, but can become scratched.  Some very hard woods are good choices. 

Best:  Tile is the best choice of flooring for houses with dogs.  It can be cleaned easily and is hardy enough to stand up to rambunctious pets.

Pet bowls and food.  Pet food and bowls can take up a lot of space depending on the size of your dog and the size of bag their kibble comes in. 

Good:  Invest in large plastic containers for dog food so you don’t have to go reaching into the bag at every meal.  Put a rubber placemat on the floor to aid in clean up. 

Better:  Customize a dog food bin.  In our house, we had a tall but narrow cupboard that would only have been good for trays or cookie sheets.  We converted it to a pull out bin for dog kibble.  Call a handy man and see if he can do the same to one of your little used cupboards. 

Best: Some of the latest kitchen designs take dogs into consideration, for example by creating an out-of-the-way space for them to eat such as under a counter or building feeding dishes into a bottom drawer that can be slipped away when not in use.

Coming in.  Dogs go out in all types of weather and frequently come in wet or dirty.

Good:Put down a rubber mat and keep a towel by the door.  Teach your dog to wait until he gets the “All Clear “ before he heads off the mat. 

BetterIf possible use an entrance through a garage or mudroom where wet footprints won’t matter as much and you can wipe down your dog before he heads to the rest of the house. 

BestThis is one of the latest design trends in luxury homes but you could do it in any home with space in the mudroom.   Invest in a doggie shower with running water and a hand-held shower wand.  I wish we had the space!

Last, but not least, provide your dog with a comfy cozy and WASHABLE dog bed so he won’t be tempted to get up on the couch - unless you want him to, that is.

Designing a Home Office

There are many reasons to consider the practicality of a home office when configuring space in your home.  For some of us (myself included) there is the lure of starting a small business after years in the corporate world.  For others, telecommuting is becoming more the norm.   Even if never intending to use the office to operate as a business, a dedicated space is helpful when writing correspondence or paying bills.

Here are some tips on how to design the perfect home office.

Privacy.  Make sure the space you choose gives you enough space to work without being distracted or distracting others.  I have to admit, I’ve learned this the hard way.  In one home, the office was in the basement next to the kids’ playroom.  During a ‘playdate’ it became impossible to get any work done.  In another home, the office was converted from a 2nd floor bedroom.  This wasn’t ideal when other family members were trying to sleep.

Layout.  The room layout should allow sufficient space to get from door to desk without going around a lot of things.  Space for storage is essential in order not to drown in paper and reference material.

Light.  Plan for a combination of natural (if possible), general and task lighting.  Consider the location of computer screens and lighting in advance to reduce opportunities for glare.

Ergonomics.  To promote well-being and avoid work-related problems like RSI or carpel tunnel syndrome, invest in good quality furniture.  The very first thing I did when I went out on my own was to invest in a used office chair, the very same as the one I had in my corporate office.  Check on Kijiji or Craig’s List (be careful of course.)

Decent equipment.  Without breaking the bank, ensure that your computer, printer, telephone system is up to the task.  The lack of IT support has been a pain point for me.  Avoid the mistakes I made by learning about your equipment so you can trouble shoot any issues without calling Dial A Nerd every day.

If you are starting up a home-based business in your new home office, you may want to consider this.  Many people have found great success using the technique of visualization.   Think about what success looks like to you.  Is it a cottage?  A hot new car?  A dream vacation?  Pull together some photos (from magazines or the Internet) of what success looks like to you and hang it in a prominent place in your office.  Greet it first thing in the morning and bid it goodnight.  Many have found this visualization of their goals a pivotal factor in achieving success.

10 Ways To Help The Planet At Home

Earth is our most precious asset.  I think we should all do our best to reduce our dependence on the earth’s non-renewable resources.  Here are a few ways each of us can help.

Plant Strategically.  Use plant material to provide shade on the sunny side of your home and around the air conditioning unit to reduce energy consumption.

Use Window Blinds.  To help reduce the cost of A/C in the summer, close the blinds.  On a sunny day in the winter open the blinds to gain any potential solar heating.

Use Ceiling Fans.  In the summer, rotate the fans counter-clockwise to circulate the air.  The winter setting rotates the blades clockwise, pulling warm air down from the ceiling.

Change Air Filters Often.  A dirty air filter can make it that much harder for your furnace or A/C unit to do its job.  A cleaner filter means less energy used.

Install Energy Efficient Windows.  Windows can contribute up to 25% of heat loss in a structure.  With many options available from triple-glazing to low emissivity glass to inert gas fills, reducing energy loss through windows is a key way to save energy.

Use A Smart Thermostat.  This allows you to program temperature so that your home is the right temperature when you’re home but uses less heating/cooling when you’re not there.  The latest must-have device, The Nest Learning Thermostat, teaches itself what your preferences are and can be controlled from a mobile device.

Install Energy Efficient Lighting.  Switch to low electricity lighting options such a compact fluorescent light (CFL’s) or LED’s wherever possible.  Think about solar lighting for outdoor applications such as garden lights.

Consider Energy Efficient Appliances.  The Energy Star program identifies energy efficient appliances that will save you money to operate as well as reducing energy consumption

Line Dry Clothes.  Consider going “old school” and hang the clothes out to dry during warmer weather.

Unplug.  Even electrical appliances that are turned off draw energy.  Avoid phantom power drain by unplugging anything not in use. 

When it comes to saving energy, every little bit helps. 

Preventing Title Fraud

The stories can be chilling.  People finding out that they have become victims of title fraud when a financial institution calls to inform them that they’ve lost their house due to a foreclosure on a mortgage they didn’t even know existed.  One estimate suggests that damages from title fraud in Canada amount to between $400 million and $1.5 billion a year.

Title fraudsters typically use one of two methods to steal title.  The first starts with stealing an identity and using either stolen or forged identity documents to apply for a mortgage on a property.  The second involves using forged documents to first pay off a mortgage or lien, then transfer title and finally to apply for a new mortgage in the new name.

So how can one prevent title fraud?  Here are a few tips to reduce your chances of being victimized.

  1. Protect your identity.  Thwart dumpster diving criminals by shredding all bills and statements before discarding them.  Immediately report any lost or stolen credit cards and monitor your statements for unauthorized activity.  Request your credit report regularly and review it.

    Be careful online.  Close browser windows completely after logging out of financial transactions.  Only provide credit card information on the secure sites of reputable businesses.  If in doubt, don’t take a chance.

  2. Purchase Title Insurance.  Title Insurance has come into being to protect consumers in the event of a title fraud or any other title-related issue. Policies cost $350 to $1,000 depending on the value of the home.
  3. Maintain your own credit on the property.  (Not everyone agrees with this approach, but I don’t see how it hurts.)  The theory is that if you keep your property tied up as security on a loan, in other words giving a lender a claim against title, a fraudster is less likely to target you.  Fraudsters are much more likely to target people who own their home outright.  If you pay off your mortgage, consider opening a home equity line of credit.  You don’t pay any interest if you don’t use the LOC, but it can tie up up to 80% of the value of your home making it unattractive to title thieves.

If you have any questions or would like more information about Preventing Title Fraud, please call me at 905-822-6900 or email me at Stephanie.Hebb@RoyalLepage.ca.

Gardening with Kids

Involving kids in the garden is a great way to not only foster some fond family memories, but to teach them some life skills as well.  With so many families living in the city, fewer and fewer kids understand where their food comes from.  Growing vegetables will help teach them about food sources as well as encouraging a healthy diet.  The planning, planting, tending and patience required to grow a garden are great skills to develop.  And when Mother Nature decides NOT to cooperate, well, that is a life lesson as well.  Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. First off, keep things low key.  Let the kids discover and learn at their own pace.  Different kids will take away different things from the experience
  2. Start small.  Start with a plot of garden no larger that 50 or 60 square feet.  That’s plenty big enough to cultivate, plant, weed and harvest.  Think about kids “reach” and make sure the paths are 24 inches and the reach is no more than 24 inches.  Large pots on a deck or balcony work just as well.
  3. Choose seeds that are easy to grow.  Good flower choices for kids are sunflower, daisies, black-eyed susans or colourful zinnias.  For veggies carrots, peas and beans are great choices. A great option for planting in pots is cherry tomatoes.  They are not only yummy but will add colour to your deck or balcony.  Pumpkins are also a favourite for kids to grow, ending with a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween.
  4. Let the kids do the watering.  Kids love water games so let them indulge their fun when it comes time to water.  Give a bit of supervision to ensure they don’t overdo it.
  5. Personal the space with a painted rock or a sign with the child’s name.  Add a tiny fairy or gnome as a happy surprise.  Let the birds in on the garden by adding a birdbath. Or shoo them away with a homemade scarecrow.
  6. Encourage them to make friends with the other creatures in the gardens.  Worms are our friends in the garden.  Butterflies and bees are essential.  Even the little garter snack is nothing to be afraid of.
  7. When the time comes, have them help with the harvest.  The look of wonder on their faces the first time they see a carrot being pulled out is worth all the effort you put in.

Sprucing Up Curb Appeal

First impressions are everything.  What does the outside of your home say about you?  With the outdoor season upon us it’s time to head outdoors and check out your home’s curb appeal. 
 
Here are some things to think about to spruce up the look of your home.
 
Lawn.  Is the lawn green and healthy looking?  It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to head to the garden centre for fertilizer and grass seed.  Remind yourself to water regularly during dry periods.  If your lawn has deeper problems (such as grubs), you can hire a lawncare company to do an environmentally friendly treatment.
 

Driveway.  Interlocking brick or patterned concrete are not necessary for a great driveway.  You can keep your asphalt driveway looking new by filling cracks and applying a new layer of sealer.
 
Garden beds.  Keep garden beds looking trim by using weed cloth and mulch around plantings.  Keep shrubs trimmed and neat looking and add some flowers for pops of colour.  If gardening isn’t your thing, adding urns or potted plants to the front step can work wonders for curb appeal.
 
Lighting.  Check bulbs in outdoor lighting and make sure you’re using the brightest bulbs allowed.  Solar powered lighting along the walkway adds ambience while at the same time improving security.
 
Door.  Don’t forget about your front door.   Add a fresh coat of paint with a pop of colour and change out the door knobs and kickplates to new ones.
 
Improving curb appeal is a relatively easy and inexpensive way of readying your house to sell for maximum dollar.  If you are thinking of selling over the next few months, take advantage of the weather over the Spring and Summer to improve the outside appearance of your home.
 

Home Security Tips

We are fortunate to live in relatively safe city.  That said, it is always better to be safe than sorry.  Here are some tips for deterring would-be burglars.

Doors.  Ensure all exterior doors are solid core or metal doors.  Install high quality deadbolt locks with one-inch throw bolts.  Use a heavy-duty, four-screw strike plate with 3-inch screws to penetrate into your wooden doorframe.

Sliding doors.  To limit side-to-side movement, use something to block the track such as a piece of wood or commercially available device.  To prevent doors being lifted out of their tracks, install through-the-door pins or upper track screws.  

Windows.  Keep windows locked and install security bars on basement windows.  For sliders, install screws half way into the upper track of the movable glass panel to prevent it from being lifted out in the closed position.

Lighting.  Make sure outdoor lighting is in working order.  Use solar powered garden lights to illuminate dark spots in the yard.  Install motion sensitive lighting around the perimeter of the house.  Trim back foundation shrubs that could shield a burglar trying to pry open a window or door.  When going away on vacation, use lights on timers inside the house to create the impression of occupancy.

Alarm systems.  Of course installing an alarm system is a great idea.  Sometimes even an alarm company sign is enough to deter a crook. 

Part of our “alarm system” consists of our two dogs that bark like crazy at any strange sight or sound.  While they might not stop someone intent on breaking in, most burglaries are crimes of opportunity. The barking dogs would be enough to make a burglar move on to a quieter house.

Get Your Home Ready For Winter

When we’re down south I’m always amazed at the number of older model cars on the road and looking in great shape.  But I guess it should be no surprise.  Without the winter and heavily salted roadways, the cars there age more slowly than they do in Canada.
 
Winter in Canada means wear and tear on our houses too.  Here are some steps you should take to winterize your home and prolong the life of your largest asset.

 

  1. Before it gets too cold, check your roof for areas that need repair and fix them.  Nothing worse than springing a leak in winter and the weather not cooperating with the repair.
  2. Trim dead branches off trees, especially those near or over your house so they don’t come down in a storm and damage the roof/gutter.
  3. After the leaves are down, clear gutters of debris to prevent ice damming and damage.
  4. Screen any holes that a small critter could use to get into the house (dryer and furnace vents).  When it starts to get cold outside, mice will look for ways to get into a warm house.
  5. Before it starts to get dark really early, check outside lighting and replace dead bulbs.
  6. Close the pool.  Cover to prevent fallen leaves from building up and drain the system before the ground freezes.
  7. Cover the BBQ, the A/C unit and the patio furniture to protect them from the elements.
  8. Drain the underground sprinkler system and shut off water to outside taps.
  9. Wrap burlap around tender shrubs and saplings.
  10. Inspect the chimney.  Have it swept regularly if using your wood-burning fireplace.
  11. Seal air leaks around windows and doors with weather stripping.
  12. Insulate, insulate, insulate.  Top up attic insulation if you can see the joists.  Remove screens and hang storm windows.  Insulate exposed pipes to minimize heat loss.
  13. Check the furnace to make sure its works before you need it!  When everyone turns on their furnace on the first cold day, the furnace repairmen won’t be able to keep up with the number of calls they get.
  14. Reverse ceiling fans so that they blow the warm air back down into the house.
  15. Last, but definitely not least, move the snowblower and shovels to the front of the garage.  You will definitely be sorry if you wait until the first big snowfall to do this.  It will be cold and wet outside and you’ll be hauling stuff around trying to get to the snowblower.