Make the most of composting in your Bracebridge Home

Composting Karen Acton Bracebridge RealtorThe District of Muskoka undertakes the waste management for all the communities in Muskoka including here in Bracebridge. There are extensive recycling programs that reflect the mindset of our beautiful area. We love the beauty and pristine nature of Muskoka and we want to keep it that way.

In the urban areas within the district there is a green box program for organic waste. The district collects this waste and turns it into compost which is then offered back to the residents in the spring just in time for putting into their gardens.

Compost is a fantastic way to recycle.  If you are outside of the urban areas that have this District service or not currently a Muskoka resident, here are some “how to” tips for making your own compost. Nature creates compost all the time without human intervention.  You can simply put you organic waste into an animal proof container and leave it to decompose nature’s way.  But as a homeowner you can step in and speed up the composting process by creating the optimal conditions for decomposition: Air + Water + Carbon + Nitrogen = Compost

Air  – Like most living things, the bacteria that decompose organic matter and the other creatures that make up the compost ecosystem, need air. Compost scientists say compost piles need porosity—the ability for air to move into the pile. You can think of porosity in terms of fluffiness. A fluffy pile has plenty of spaces—or pores—for air to move about. A flat, matted pile of, say, grass clippings does not. Even fluffy piles compress during the composting process. Occasionally turning your pile re-fluffs the material, moves new material into the center, and helps improve air flow into the pile.

Water  – Compost microbes also need the right amount of water. Too much moisture reduces airflow, causes temperatures to fall, and can make the pile smell. Too little water slows decomposition and prevents the pile from heating. Conventional wisdom says that compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge.

Carbon Ingredients  – The microbes that break down organic matter use carbon as an energy source. Ingredients with a high percentage of carbon are usually dry and brown or yellow in color. The most common high-carbon ingredients are leaves, straw, and corn stalks. Sometimes people call these ingredients browns.

Nitrogen Ingredients –  Microbes need nitrogen for the proteins that build their tiny bodies. Ingredients high in nitrogen are generally green, moist plant matter, such as leaves, or an animal by-product, such as manure. These ingredients are called greens, but in reality they can be green, brown, and all colors in between.

C/N Ratio  –  In order for a compost pile to decompose efficiently, you need to create the right ratio of carbon (C) to nitrogen (N) (C/N). Piles with too much nitrogen tend to smell, because the excess nitrogen converts into an ammonia gas. Carbon-rich piles break down slowly because there’s not enough nitrogen for the microbe population to expand. An ideal compost pile should have a 30:1 C/N ratio. Grass clippings alone have about a 20:1 C/N ratio. Adding one part grass clippings, or other green, to two parts dead leaves, or other brown, will give you the right mix.

The District of Muskoka provides a list of items that can be put into urban compost which includes more of the nitrogen rich components than you should use in a home system but not the garden waste, however with your garden waste mixed in with your kitchen waste you should be able to create an awesome compost pile.

Remember in Muskoka, the amount of curbside waste you can put out for weekly pick-up is limited so using the recycling program makes it easy to comply. Without recycling you will likely find it difficult to avoid creating too much garbage. Reduce, reuse and recycle to keep Muskoka beautiful!

Advertisements

New Mortgage Rules and your Muskoka Home

Modern Family E.jpgYou may or may not know that the federal government recently announced some big changes concerning the guidelines for borrowers of high-ratio mortgages – a borrower who has a deposit of less than 20 per cent of the purchase price of a home. These guidelines must be adhered to by banks but not private mortgage lenders.

If you plan to borrow from a bank and need mortgage default insurance you must now meet the mortgage “stress test.” This means that as a borrower, you must be able to carry a mortgage based on current Bank of Canada rate for a five-year term which is currently 4.64%. This could be much higher than the rate for the term that your bank may be willing to offer you. Current 5 year posted fixed rates at many major banks are under 3%. While your payment will be based on the actual rate charged by your bank for the mortgage you agree upon, you must qualify based on the higher rate.  This means if you are “tight” on your debt service ratio calculation you may be qualify for less than you did prior to this change. Taking the time to get pre-approved is even more important now than before.

If you already have a home these new requirements and guidelines do not affect you, or if your pre-approved mortgage commitment was already in existence prior to Oct. 17, 2016, however there may have a deadline for you to use that commitment. These changes are only for high ratio mortgages and will not affect you if you have more than 20% down payment.

If you are considering an investment property in Muskoka you will be glad to know these new provisions do not affect you. However, that is because most lenders have restricted the amount they will lend on investment properties to 80 per cent of the appraised value or purchase price, whichever is the lower amount.

These changes will likely affect the ability of some first-time home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.  If you are a first-time buyer it may mean a longer wait before your purchase while you accumulate a bigger deposit or it may mean making the decision that your first home will be a little less glamorous than you may have hoped for.

This may all sound a bit gloomy but let’s be positive about it. By using this stress test, you should be less stressed about your ability to make your payments each month and when your mortgage comes up for maturity, IF the interest rates are higher, you should be able to afford the increased payment.

Ultimately this is a consumer protection bid by our government designed to help people keep their homes and not lose them if interest rates increase significantly.

November was Financial Literacy Month, and CREA (Canadian Real Estate Association)  the national association to which I belong, has developed some resources you can use all year long to help understand some of the trickier financial concepts you might encounter during the home buying process.

There is a series of eight videos which cover topics from amortization to mortgage pre-payment to the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) and beyond. Each video is under two minutes and done in a fun, animated style, the videos break down some of the financial terms and implications you might come across.

The videos can be found here 

You may also enjoy looking at the Homebuyers’ Road Map, a publication developed in collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, to help Canadians navigate the home buying journey.

Ultimately knowledge is power so I hope you will use these resources and will not hesitate to call me if you have any questions about buying your first or next home in Muskoka or if you have questions about your present home and the implications of these new mortgage rules.

 

 

Fall and Winter Safety Tips for Your Muskoka Home

Fall Maintenance in your Bacebridge Home - Karen ActonIt’s finally here, in spite of the glorious weather the leaves are turning and Fall has arrived. October usually brings us our first burst of cold and a time change that means it’s time to check our smoke and C02 alarms again. It is also a great time to check your furnace filters and clean out the dust that may have accumulated in your duct work.

Here are some other tips put together from the web site of the Ontario Fire Marshal to help keep you and your Muskoka home safe.

FIREPLACES

• Clean the ashes regularly. When you remove fireplace embers or ash, place them in a metal container with a lid and cover them with water. Do not place them in a plastic or paper bag or other container that is not fire-resistant. Do not dispose of them indoors or close to your home or another structure.
• Use care with “fire salts,” which produce coloured flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
• Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat.
• Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks.
• Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
• Use only seasoned and dried wood.
• Never leave the fire unattended or let it smolder.

CANDLES

• Extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep. Keep lit candles away from items that can catch fire
• Place candles in sturdy, burn-resistant containers that won’t tip over and are big enough to collect dripping wax.
• Don’t place lit candles near windows, where blinds or curtains may close or blow over them.
• Don’t use candles in high traffic areas where children or pets could knock them over.
• Never leave children or pets alone in a room with lit candles.
• Do not allow older children to light candles in their bedrooms. A forgotten candle or an accident is all it takes to start a fire.
• During power outages, exercise caution when using candles as a light source. Many destructive fires start when potential fire hazards go unnoticed in the dark.
• Never use a candle for light when fueling equipment such as a camp fuel heater or lantern.
• Keep candle wicks short at all times. Trim the wick to one-quarter inch (6.4 mm).
• Be wary of buying novelty candles. Avoid candles surrounded by flammable paint, paper, dried flowers, or containers that can melt or break.
• Never let candles burn out completely. Extinguish taper and pillar candles when they burn to within two inches of the holder, and container candles before the last half-inch of wax begins to melt.
• Use extreme caution when carrying a lit candle, holding it well away from your clothes and any combustibles that may be along your path.

HEATING SYSTEMS

• Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Never use your oven to heat your home.
• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
• Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition.
• Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.
• Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discoloured, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required.
• Check the flue pipe and pipe seams. Are they well supported, free of holes, and cracks? Soot along or around seams may be an indicator of a leak.
• Is the chimney solid, with no cracks or loose bricks? All unused flue openings should be sealed with solid masonry.

KITCHEN SAFETY

• If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop.
• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
• If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
• Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop.
• Again, have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

Grease and fat fires are a leading cause of home fires in Canada, so be extra careful when doing this kind of cooking. Here’s what to do if grease in a pot or pan catches fire:

• Smother the flames by covering the pan with a lid. Do not remove the lid until the pan is completely cooled.
• Turn off the heat immediately.
• Use baking soda (flour can be explosive) on shallow grease fires.
• Never turn on the overhead fan, as this could spread the fire.
• Never throw water on a grease fire.

It may seem that I am stating the obvious but it is amazing how easily we can become complacent and after such a long and lovely summer at your Muskoka Home or Cottage it is a good thing to take a moment to think about the things we all need to do as we shift from summer mode to winter mode. Remember, as we “fall back” change your clock and take time to make your Muskoka home or cottage safe for Fall and Winter.

Avoiding Buyer’s Remorse When You Buy a Muskoka Home

the-thinkerDid you ever buy something special and later realize you didn’t really need it or like it after all? It could have been something as small as a new shirt or pair of shoes or as big as an appliance, but no matter what it was, returning it was likely, as easy as packing it back up, locating the receipt, and taking it back to the store for a full refund or exchange.

Most things you buy you get to try first, however, unlike store merchandise or a car you can test drive, you can’t “try before you buy” your new Muskoka home.

This makes your decision to buy or not buy extremely important and potentially stressful. Not only is a home a huge investment, it’s also where your family will be spending the next several years of your lives.
Your home is not just a shelter; it is where your memories are made.

Here are some suggestions so you can avoid feeling remorseful after your offer has been accepted, or worse, living in a house you don’t love.

Make a checklist.                                                                                                                                    Make a list of the things that are really important to you in a home. Ensure you include the ‘can’t have’ as well as the ‘want to have’. Some things will be ‘must have’ – deal breakers; others may be more negotiable. Separate the needs from the wants. It can be helpful to choose the top three.

When viewing homes, it’s hard to remember details after you have seen several houses, so take the list with you and check off items that each property has and make notes regarding missing ones. Can you be happy without them? Can they be improved or added later? It’s important to share this information with your REALTOR® and provide lots of feedback at each showing to help narrow down your search.
Have you seen the home more than once?
No matter how much you think you love a property, if you’ve only seen it once, you could be heading for buyer’s remorse. If possible, go back at a different time of day to get another perspective. You may see things differently the second time around. You may have missed something during your first visit that will stand out the second time. Or, you may like the home even better.

Explore every aspect the property.
Your first viewing of the property will have provided a basic understanding of the floor plan, condition and size. But, to really know if it is the right one for you, take time to experience the property. Your REALTOR® will want you to be sure it right for you too. Drive around the neighbourhood. Walk the boundaries of the lot, and look at the back of the home. Open every closet and go in the all the rooms, the basement, and garage. An offer can include a Home Inspection condition. This will provide an additional opportunity for you, along with your Home Inspector, to carefully review all aspects of the home.

Is this home what you set out to buy in the first place?
Frequently buyers modify their wants and needs throughout the search process. Did you lose focus on what you were looking for? Is this home going to meet your needs now and for the foreseeable future? Have you made a compromise that you will regret? Choosing a different neighbourhood to get a better price could end up being a mistake. Be sure you do not lose sight of the “needs” part of you search criteria by getting caught up in the “wants”.

Do you “want” this house or do you want to “win” this house?
Often, in a competitive situation, a buyer just wants to “win.” If you’re competing in a multiple offer situation, step back and ask yourself: Is this the home I really want or do I just want to beat out the other buyers? Also, has the potential purchase price exceeded your comfort zone? Putting an offer on a home at a price reflective of its market value is one thing. But after a few rounds of counter offers you may be looking at an amount that exceeds the list price. This may still be the home’s value but if it is more than you can comfortably afford it may be time to step away rather than “win”.
So, if you think you’ve found the perfect Muskoka home, ask yourself these questions. Ultimately, I want a client to sign an agreement only when they are completely convinced they have found the right home for them. If the home is not a “good fit” it cannot be put it back in the box and returned for a refund!

As your REALTOR® it is my mission to help you find a Muskoka home that will not only meet your needs but will bring you a sense of joy and contentment for years to come.

Here Comes Summer – Is Your Muskoka Home Ready?

towelsMonday June 20th is the official start of summer this year, but why wait until then to get into the summer spirit? You know I often advise getting a jump-start on things so here are a few tips for preparing your home and garden for a wonderful Muskoka summer.

1. Repair screen doors. If you use them, now is the time to take down the storm doors and put up screen doors to let the summer breezes pour in. Be sure to inspect screens carefully, patching holes as needed — even a tiny hole can be enough to let in a mosquito.

2. Schedule some outdoor projects. Are you dreaming of a new patio or need to replace a deck? Don’t delay booking a pro for your projects because in our short construction season the best professionals get booked up early.

3. Check your cooling systems. Take the time before hot weather sets in to dust ceiling fans, install window air-conditioning units, and schedule maintenance for a whole-house cooling system.

4. Eaves toughs and downspouts. If you did not get your eaves troughs cleaned this spring, be sure to get this important job checked off your list as soon as possible. Leaves and pine needles in gutters can lead to leaks and siding damage with summer storms.

5. Catch up on some maintenance. None of us are perfect, and chances are there are a few home-maintenance projects you have been meaning tackle.Why not make June the month to get caught up?

6. Create a drying station for towels and bathing suits. If you re blessed to own a Muskoka Cottage or home with a pool, then soggy towels getting dragged through your home is a mess waiting to happen. Choose a dedicated spot, either just outside the door (a covered porch works well) or in the mudroom, and hang a row of sturdy hooks for wet towels and bathing suits. Once dry, sand can be easily shaken off outdoors, so it doesn’t end up in your washing machine!

7. Reorganize your kitchen. Yes, you do have seasons in your kitchen too! If there are small appliances you use more in the warmer months like a crock pot now is the time to put it away and get out the ice cream maker. Stations devoted to a certain purpose can also do wonders. If you have children on summer vacation, create a self-help station stocked with healthy snacks.

8. Refresh first-aid kits and emergency supplies. Be prepared for everything from minor scrapes to natural disasters with well-stocked first-aid kits in the house and car, plus emergency supplies for your family and pets. Not sure what to include? The Canadian Red Cross has a helpful checklist.

9. Brighten up decor. Put away the heavy rugs, put crisp percale or cooling linen sheets on the beds, and bring in accents in lighter shades for the warmer months ahead.

10. Refresh your bathroom. Shower curtain liner looking a little dingy? Bath towels seen better days? Give your bathroom a mini spa makeover, and swap out your tired bath linens for fresh new ones.

11. Get the summer fun gear ready. From camping to beach trips, summertime activities come with a lot of gear. Get it cleaned up and ready now so that you’re not surprised by a leaky tent or blown-out beach umbrella when it’s too late to replace them.

Remember we live in one of the world most beautiful places. Muskoka is full of great things to do, so being prepared allows you lots of time to enjoy being in your Muskoka home or cottage.

It’s Spring Time in Muskoka and It’s a Great Time To Clean The Garage

messy-abandoned-garage-full-stuff-10168084Ah…. Spring in Muskoka. After the snow is gone we seem to get the urge to bring out our summer toys and perhaps access our lawn mowers. This means we need to get into our garages. That’s where all the tools, toys, bikes, sporting and camping equipment are, right? Too bad all those things you need are spread out all over the garage with no rhyme or reason. Well here are 7 steps to help guide you through the mess to create a garage that’s orderly and easy to access.

1. Analyze and prioritize. One of the biggest problems with garages is that generally there is no plan for the space. Many of us fail to take time to analyze and visualize the space to figure out how we want it to look. What is your priority for your garage? Do you want to park your car or have your own work space? Do you need to store seasonal items and sporting equipment? Maybe you need all of the above. Pick your priorities and plan with that in mind.

2. Clear the space. You’ll need to start with a clean slate. Get a couple of tarps and blankets to place your items on and lay them in an open area like the driveway or lawn. This is a great time of year in Muskoka when the weather is still a bit cooler than it will be in the summer.

3. Start purging! Try to commit to getting rid of half the stuff in your garage. Even if you don’t get rid of that much, making the effort will go a long way. To purge, start by making four piles: keep, donate, discard and recycle. As you purge, place each item into its respective category. Get rid of anything that is broken or things you haven’t used in over a year. Return items that don’t belong to you or belong somewhere else other than the garage. Get rid of duplicates.

4. Sort by putting like items that you are going to keep with like items. As you pull things out of the garage, group together all your sporting equipment in one spot, then your tools, lawn gear, camping gear, decorations and so on. You can even get down to the itty bitty nails and screws…sort these out as well.

5. Now that you’ve cut down, take inventory of what you have. That way you’ll have a better of idea of what organizational items you can work with or what you’ll need to purchase. Don’t purchase organizational products before you’ve purged…it will save you time, money and frustration. Next, map out the space. Draw it out on paper or use masking tape in the garage to outline the different spaces/work zones. You can mark off the spot for your car, heavy duty shelving, paint and hazardous materials cabinet, lawn care supplies, tools or workbench, and sports/recreational equipment.

6. Determine your organizational supplies. Now that you’ve mapped out your zones, gather your supplies. Use large trash cans to store rakes, shovels and brooms upright. You can also use a large trash can to store sporting equipment like, skateboards, balls, bats and gloves. Use pegboards to hang tools. Use large hooks mounted to studs in the wall or ceiling to hang bicycles and extension cords. And get a label maker!

7. Put everything away in its proper zone and label everything you can! This is the fun part because the finish line is in sight! Start putting things away in their designated zone and start labeling. It just makes it easier to find and put things away. Label makers are great for labeling cords, containers, drawers, boxes and shelves. If you don’t have a label maker, use masking tape or duct tape and a permanent marker. Be sure to label the front and sides of storage bins so you’ll be able to read them no matter which way you face them.

By getting the chore done sooner rather than later you will find you can enjoy your summer much more. And if you are planning to sell your Muskoka home, a well organized garage is a great feature and will make packing to move much easier!

Spring in to Action Muskoka With My April Check List

Spring Clean Your Muskoka DeckThe days are getting longer, the temperatures are supposed to be milder and April is a wonderful time to freshen up your Muskoka home both inside and out. From windows that sparkle, to a clutter-free garage, here is my list of to do’s to make the most of early spring.

Clean gutters and downspouts. Having your home’s eaves troughs and downspouts cleaned and repaired is one of the most important tasks to do this season. Muskoka winters can be hard on eaves troughs, so keeping them in good repair is important. Clogged gutters during a rainy spring can cause water to pool, potentially damaging the roof and siding and can also cause wet basements.

Wash siding. Use your garden hose and a light scrubbing to clear away winter grime from your home’s siding.

Spruce up the front porch. Clean the porch floor, exterior windows, windowsills and front door. Wipe cobwebs from the ceiling and high corners. Lay down a fresh doormat and plant a pot of flowers. If you have porch furniture, clean it off and wash the cushions.

Inspect paths and driveway. Repeated freezing and thawing can take a toll on asphalt and concrete if you have it, so check your driveway and paths for cracks and schedule repairs as needed. If you have a gravel driveway, take a walk up and down it to see if it’s time to top it up and even out the bumps.

Boost curb appeal. Spring is a wonderful time to make upgrades to your home’s exterior, like putting up bold house numbers and a shiny new mailbox. If you’re planning to put your house on the market this spring, boosting curb appeal can help attract potential buyers.

Wash windows. Welcome the spring sunshine by clearing dirt and grime from windows inside and out. Don’t forget to wipe the sills too!

Check screen doors and windows for tears. Even small tears can let in mosquitoes, so take the time to inspect your screens carefully. If you find any holes, pick up a screen patch kit, available at most hardware stores. Repairs are usually easy and if you do not know how you can always watch a Youtube video on how to repair them.

Schedule cooling-system maintenance. If you have central air conditioning, be sure to schedule professional maintenance before the start of summer. A properly maintained system cools better, uses less energy and lasts longer.

Test sprinklers and irrigation system. Don’t let the first sign you have a malfunctioning irrigation system be your drooping garden. Take the time this month to test each part and adjust or repair as needed. Even if you do not have sprinklers, now is a great time to check your outside tap and hose to make sure the Muskoka winter did not damage anything.

Keep mosquitoes at bay. Having warmer weather and longer days means we’re entering bug season. Take preventative measures by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Any open containers (empty flowerpots, saucers, a wheelbarrow) can become mosquito-breeding grounds when filled with rainwater, so store items like these upside down or in a shed.

Maintain wood decks and fences. Keep outdoor woodwork in top shape by staining or resealing each spring. Check gates, fencing, decks, railings, gazebos and other outdoor structures, and make repairs as needed.
Living in Muskoka has many wonderful blessings but our winters mean spring clean-up can be a chore. Get a start on it now so you can enjoy a spectacular summer of relaxation.