The Upside to Downsizing Your Muskoka Home

DownsizeYour children are grown and finally gone and settled into their own adult lives. You have gone through the woes of “empty nest” syndrome and you are now in the position to think about what is next for you!

Do you keep the big home and hope that you get to host the family holidays? Do you even want to do that?  Most of us eventually decide that a smaller home with less maintenance and overhead is the wiser thing to do, so here are some pros and cons to help you decide if there is an upside to downsizing for you.

Most often when I see clients downsize, they tend to move into into a smaller home or condo. Smaller homes very often are on smaller lots and both of these options can mean being closer to neighbours.

On the downside you can see and hear your neighbours.  This may be a negative but you can help moderate the effect by upgrading the window treatments in your home for privacy and strategically place screening plants in your garden or on your patio or balcony to make you new location more private.

The upside is you can get to know your neighbours. In most cases when you downsize you will find you have more time on your hands.  Less work to do around the home so having new friends in the neighbourhood is a great way to spend some of that time. Be social, old friends are great, but making friends next door will enhance the everyday enjoyment you have in your new home.

One of the things a larger home often has is storage space that smaller homes and condos usually lack.

On the downside storage becomes a premium. The double vanity in the old bathroom, the large hall closet, the full basement with a large utility room: these places may be gone in the new home. To counter-act this you may want to consider closet organizers and perhaps a bathroom makeover.

The upside is you can purge and then indulge: You may need to be a little brutal with yourself at first but pare down your “stuff” to only the things you need and love. Then give yourself permission to acquire only products you love as time goes on.  They may cost a little more but your new and efficient life style means you can afford to spend a little more on your favourite perfume and toiletries and use them every day rather than having 2 or 3 kinds and keeping the favorite one only for special occasions!

Most large family homes have formal sitting areas and family rooms. Often there is a craft room and a work shop. Lots of “hidey holes” for family members to have “me time” that may not exist in a smaller home.

The downside is that it is harder to have your own space. As a retired empty nester, you may have developed separate interests and activities from your partner so you will need to be intentional about giving each other the time and space needed to continue to do these activities.
The upside is that by being more exposed to your partner’s hobbies you may find you both enjoy them.  In addition, you will have a smaller home and fewer rooms that need cleaning so more time to spend together.

One of the biggest factors to consider when downsizing is what to keep and what to let go of.

The downside is your furniture may no longer work. Even if you’ve made careful decisions about what items you will keep and take to the new home there could be issues. A light-filled room can highlight stains you hadn’t noticed, the color or style may be all wrong for the space, and the way you find yourself using a room may mean that your furniture feels like a mismatch.

The upside is you are liquidating capital in the process and so can afford some new items: You have the perfect excuse to go shopping for new furniture and that is always fun!

The garden is usually a big adjustment whether you love to garden or not. Moving from a large home that likely has a larger garden to a smaller one with just a little one or even a condo with none can mean a big change.

The downside is your backyard shrinks, and your lifestyle changes along with it. For many this is a relief not a problem but if gardening is a passion for you, the solution is not as hard as you may think. There are often neighbours who can no longer manage their gardens who would love to allow you to help. Put a message on the community Facebook page and see how many replies you get. If you’re used to lazing by a back-yard pool and know you’ll miss it, consider a hot tub or a swim spa instead.

The upside is you have more time for you. Mowing the lawn will no longer be a time-consuming chore and the cost of the spring and fall turn around will be cut down considerably.  Remember, with some creative furnishings and plantings, a compact backyard can still meet your needs for a restful outdoor escape and a place to entertain family and friends.

By the time, you are ready to down size you have very likely been used to a large kitchen and cooking for a family. A smaller home or condo will usually mean a much smaller kitchen.

The downside is a compact kitchen changes the way you cook. When you have had oodles of counter tops and lots of storage perhaps even a pantry, cooking a family meal is relatively easy. A smaller kitchen will require you to clean as you go, plan your meals and shop for ingredients more often. It also means you need to reduce the quantities of serving dishes, glassware and kitchen gadgets that you keep.

The upside is that you can have fun learning new recipes. Embrace your downsized lifestyle and eat out more often. Meet friends out for dinner instead of having them over and when it comes to family events go to their home or make it pot luck and paper plates!

Another adjustment you will likely have to face is that your rooms need to serve more than one purpose. If you had a sewing room in your old home, you will most likely have to set up in a spare bedroom and pack things up for company.

The downside is rooms must serve more than one purpose. As an empty nester, you will have had the luxury of turning rooms the children once occupied into craft rooms, man caves, home offices and the like. When you downsize you will need to adjust to multipurpose rooms and make do, particularly when hosting guests.

The upside is less space less junk. You will be less tempted to accumulate stuff and buy only what you need or genuinely love.

Laundry rooms are often sacrificed in a downsizing move. Laundry rooms become laundry areas and in a condo may even be a community facility.

The downside is you need to plan your laundry day. If your kitchen and laundry become one or you need to leave your home to do laundry, figuring out what to do with baskets of washing can be a challenge. The typical laundry room is a prime dumping ground for all manner of items, such as shoes that need cleaning and stained items that are soaking in the sink, ironing board and so much more. You must find a way to eliminate this or “hide” it until laundry day.
The upside is small loads of laundry done frequently: Piles of laundry will become a thing of the past. Staying on top of washing, folding and ironing will become the norm.

Perhaps the biggest change and even the most difficult one to adjust to is how to handle house guests.

The downside is you have to plan well for company. Larger homes often come with guest rooms for visiting family but downsizing means you need to get creative to squeeze in more than one guest at a time. Bunk beds, wall beds, sofa beds and air mattresses are all options. It’s up to you how many guests you want to accommodate at once —and sometimes it will take a visit or two to see what will work.

The upside is smaller groups of visitors means more one-on-one time with them: If only a couple of family members can visit comfortably at once, quality time together is assured.

The decision to go from a large family home to a smaller one is not easy to make, but in my experience it is usually a good move with no regrets. I would be happy to help you with any questions you may have about the process and, of course, with the search for that new smaller abode.

Advertisements

8 Tips for a Successful Muskoka Home Renovation

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeIn my role as a Muskoka REALTOR® I am frequently invited into homes and cottages to give an opinion of value. These properties are in various states of maintenance and repair and often have been renovated by the home owner. These renovations span the whole gamut, from elegant and value-enhancing to lamentable and wasteful. So here are some tips that I believe will be helpful if you plan to renovate your Muskoka Home.

Set a Realistic Budget

If you plan to do a home renovation you really should have a clear idea of what you can afford before you start looking in magazines and picking fixtures and countertops etc. Talk to a contractor about realistic costs. Even if you plan to do the work yourself be sure to have a contingency fund built into the budget to allow for the unexpected. In my experience, there is nearly always a “surprise” element to every project.

Things to make sure you budget for include:

  • cost of preparing the space before you start the actual work (disposal of old materials)
  • relocating plumbing and electrical
  • light fixtures
  • paint and PRIMER – often skipped but will save time and money if done right!
  • flooring – will the existing floor be damaged in the process and need replacing or refinishing?
  • Permits – most renos WILL need permits and skipping them means that you could have issues when reselling and in some cases, void your insurance.
  • HELP – can you do it all yourself or will you hire out some parts?

Will Your Reno Suit Your Neighbourhood?

While most renos are interior and you may think immaterial to the neighbourhood you do need to consider the investment you are about to make. If your dream is to install an ensuite bath with a steam room that is wonderful but none of the homes in your area have this kind of luxury feature, you should understand that it is purely for your enjoyment while you own your home. You will not likely get any return on the investment. In fact, in some cases over improvements can devalue a home.

Remember not to ignore your home’s style when renovating especially if the renovation includes an addition. If you have a traditional Muskoka waterfront property, then a modern addition with walls of glass may not look esthetically appealing and will not generally improve value. While it may be your dream to own, it may not be the dream of many protentional future buyers. Work with your builder and architect to come up with a design that gives you the features you want but still fits the rest of the home or cottage.

Avoid Going Too Trendy

People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. I would encourage you to consider that trendy often means short term. While some of the hottest and latest trends will turn out to be timeless many will burn out fast and not only will you stop loving them quickly but the next buyer of your home or cottage will see them as “dated”.

To keep any room “trendy” pick accent items you can add rather than physical and structural ones. That way when the trend is over you can replace them with something new.  A good example of this is shag carpeting.  Rather than doing wall to wall, do a more standard floor finish and add a shag area carpet  and perhaps some shag accent pillows.  When shag goes out of style, and it will, replace these accents with whatever is the next trend.

Buy the Right Materials

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when it comes to home renovation is to try to be frugal when choosing materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.  Inexpensive and cheap are definitely not the same thing. Price check and be wise but being cheap will often lead to having to spend more in the long run. Cheap fixtures and products end up looking that way and invariably you will be disappointed and probably choose to replace then with the product you wanted in the first place.

Remember that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait and do it later!

Do the Prep Work

Do it the right way the first time. Whatever the job get yourself ready before you start. Gather the right tools and prepare the space before you dip a brush in the paint or hammer in the first nail. You will be so glad you did.  I know it is the tedious part of any project big or small but if you fail to be prepared you will end up taking longer than needed and perhaps compromising on the quality of the finished job simply because you were too eager to get started.

One of the most important prep steps is the measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of the great contractor and you should make it yours.  You can burn through a budget quickly by making cutting mistakes in your lumber or trim work and if ordering flooring, buying too much or too little will lead to total frustration. If you are not sure how to measure properly ask someone who knows. A quick lesson will save you time money and frustration.

Paint and Light

People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on. It is important to use the correct type of paint for the surface. The best advice will come from the professional at the paint store but choose better quality paints with the right finish for the job.

Remember that your lighting needs to complement the colour palate you use and that typically most people gravitate to light and warm colours rather than dark and bold.

Get the Right Tools

If you are planning on doing the renovation yourself make sure you have all the tools you need to do it properly. This means that you may have to borrow or rent what you don’t have. Do not try to make the wrong tool do the job. This can lead to expensive mistakes and sadly even to injury to yourself or damage to the tool you are trying to make do the job. Knives are not screw drivers and chop saws are not miter saws so please be careful and make sure you have the right equipment to do the job safely.

You may even need to rent stand lights so you can properly see what you are working on and space heaters to keep you warm in the addition until the new heating is connected.

Embrace the Chaos

Once you have done the budget, designed and purchased the materials, sit down in and enjoy your last moment of calm for a while. Then take a big breath and embrace the chaos. While it is always best to try working in a clean and tidy space you need to accept that a clean and tidy work space is not a clean and tidy home. You will have disrupted meal times, dusty surfaces and hard to find possessions for the duration of the project. So embrace it, find humor in it and don’t get mad at each other or the kids over things that cannot change until the job is done.

 

I hope these tips will be useful and not too negative. Renovating your Muskoka home or cottage can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor and if done well, will bring you many years of enjoyment and a good return on your investment when the time is right to sell.

Keeping Your Muskoka Home Mould Free

mould-in-bathroomCan you safely and permanently clean up mould and mildew in your Muskoka Home? We have all heard about how some moulds are toxic so how do you know what you can tackle and what you should leave to a professional?

As a Realtor, I see all types of homes and cottages, from elaborate and grand to small and cozy and I can assure you, that any one of them can be prone to mould. It is not a question of cleanliness but more one of ventilation.  When you find mould in your home it is better to take care of it sooner rather than later. Mould can cause health problems and damage what it grows on. The spores of mould fungi commonly float through the air and when they adhere to damp surfaces and start to grow, they can gradually consume the surface. The key to keeping your Muskoka home in great shape is to get the cleanup done before any damage happens.

There are lots of different types of mould which are more accurately called fungi. Many produce allergens that can cause health related reactions in some people

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Allergic reactions

Health Canada has a great web page with helpful video segments and lots of tips and recommendations.

Moulds cannot grow without moisture so controlling moisture is the key to preventing and or eliminating mould growth. Moulds are very fast growing organisms and can take hold in a very short time. Add a little heat to the mix and in just a few hours mould can have a real grip on your home. In warm Southern climates, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine for just a few hours after the cycle has finished, you could have mould all over the laundry.

Where is Mould Most Common

A leaky roof or plumbing, flood damage, or indoor humidity that’s too high and without proper ventilation can all lead to mould problems. Anyplace that remains damp and unventilated is a potential mould-forming zone. “Anywhere water travels” in a structure is vulnerable to mould. That includes areas where major plumbing arteries are located, crawl spaces with drains, walls plumbed from bathroom to bathroom and between floors. Incorrectly sealed tubs and faulty construction can cause water to seep into crevices and create big problems over time.  Buildings that are tightly sealed may lack adequate ventilation, which can lead to moisture buildup.

Most Mould-Prone Areas

  • Basements or cellars
  • Under kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Under or behind refrigerators
  • Behind walls that house plumbing
  • Around air-conditioning units
  • Baseboards or around windowsills
  • Under carpeting

Mildew is another fungi-produced coating that can form on damp surfaces. Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears powdery and white or gray. Moulds are darker in color, usually black or green but can be almost any colour. Moulds penetrate the surface of what it’s growing on. You may follow the same cleaning steps below to remove mould and mildew.

Mould Removal

Here are some options I’ve seen on a variety of websites for simple surface mould removal.

Bleach: Mix 1 cup bleach with enough water to make 1 gallon. Put the solution in a spray bottle, or spread it with a sponge or cloth. There’s no need to rinse.

Borax: Mix 1 cup borax with enough water to make 1 gallon. Borax is less harsh-smelling and corrosive than bleach. Apply the solution to the surface and scrub with a brush; don’t rinse. Wipe the surface dry.

Vinegar: Use full-strength vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the affected area and wipe off.

Ammonia: This is suitable for killing mould on smooth, nonporous surfaces. NEVER USE IT WITH BLEACH. Treat the area with a solution of equal parts ammonia and water, leave on for 10 minutes, and rinse with water.

Hydrogen peroxide: Spray full-strength (3%)hydrogen peroxide on the mouldy surface and let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen the mould. Wipe the surface and don’t rinse.

Baking soda: Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon water and scrub the mouldy surface, then rinse with water. This is particularly useful for killing mould on upholstery.

Tea tree oil: Use 1 teaspoon tea tree oil per cup of water and spray on the surface. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe off.

Note: Health Canada suggests that before beginning any mould clean-up, take steps to ensure that you do not expose yourself or others to mould spores. It is recommended that you wear an adequate breathing mask (N95 or better respirator), safety glasses or goggles and rubber gloves.

Even with adequate precautions, mould spores may become airborne. As a precaution during clean-up, children, the elderly and sensitive people such as those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should leave the house. Consult your physician if in doubt.

To Clean or Throw Away?

If the mould is on a porous surface, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles, drywall or wallpaper, the items might have to be thrown away since the mould may be impossible to remove.

When Should You Call a Professional?

Wiping down mildew in damp areas is always a good idea, but how do you know when it’s time to bring in a professional? Health Canada advises using a mould remediation expert if there is

  • One or more patches of mould larger than 1 square metre
  • More than three patches of mould less than 1 square metre
  • Patches of mould that keep coming back after cleaning
  • A mould problem that you cannot solve on your own

 

Testing for Mould

Chronic allergy-type health problems or mildew odors mean it’s time to consider more extensive mould treatment. Start by using a mould testing company, which will take samples, send them to a lab, and obtain a report on mould levels and species. Use a company that does testing only, to avoid a conflict of interest. Once the mould species are identified you can determine if a remediation specialist is indicated.

Mould Remediation

There is no doubt that some types of mould are toxigenic meaning they produce substances toxic to humans. They are rare in this region but it you have a lot of mould or several different looking moulds you really should call a professional to take care of the situation. Below are several companies that service this area and should be able to assist you.

Mold Removal | Mold Remediation | Muskoka, Huntsville, Bracebridge

www.svmmuskoka.ca/services.php?s=mold

Mould Removal & Remediation | Restoration 1 Muskoka

muskoka.restoration1.ca/moldremoval/

Mould Removal & Remediation ON | R&F Construction | R&F …

www.rfconstruction.com/mould-asbestos/mould/

 

How to Prevent Mould

Just like granny always said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so the very best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent it from growing in the first place.  Controlling moisture inside your Muskoka home is the key to avoiding mould. Consider an annual inspection of roofing, plumbing, exterior drainage and interior ventilation to verify that there are no repairs required. Check for leaks under sinks and in crawl spaces. Always use ventilation in a bathroom to remove condensation from showers.

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.

 

 

Understanding the Financing Clause when Buying Muskoka Home

What is a Mortgage - Karen Acton Royal LePage Lakes of MuskokaOur market in Muskoka has been very active this last few years and sometimes the temptation to make offers unconditional can be very strong.

As a buyer, you may have been pre-approved and feel that it is safe to buy unconditionally only to be caught up by a lender’s requirement that you cannot meet.  At the last minute, you may even have to come up with a larger down payment.  If you are unable to do so, this could leave you not only losing your dream home but potentially subject to the consequences of a breach of contract.

As a seller, an unconditional offer is always very appealing but if that buyer cannot produce funds on closing the results cannot only be heart breaking, but you may be faced with losing the home you hoped to buy and possibly being in breach of your contract with the seller of your future home.

As a Realtor® I always strive to guide my clients with good advice and protect them from making a mistake. I know that when a buyer finds the perfect home or cottage they want it and don’t want to be outbid.  My job is to be the voice of reason. Unless you have the resources to buy with cash or a very large down payment that well exceeds most lenders’ requirements, a financing clause is simply the best option.

In a recent article Mark Weisleder a Partner, author and speaker at the law firm Real Estate Lawyers.ca LLP covered the following important points.

1. Pre-approvals are no guarantee you will obtain your financing

Too many buyers are cavalier about submitting offers without a financing condition, especially during the pressure of a bidding war. You must understand that even with a pre-approval, the lender must be satisfied with its own appraisal. The foundation for most appraisals is what would a willing buyer pay a willing seller, WITHOUT pressure? In a bidding war, there is almost always pressure on the buyer. This is why the appraisal will likely be lower than what the buyer offered and the lender will offer you less money than you hoped for. The answer is always to have an extra 5-10% of the down payment in reserve to protect you. In a condominium purchase, if it is conditional upon review of a status certificate, use that time to also make sure your financing is in order.

 2. Lenders can change their mind right up until the day of closing

Even if you are approved after you sign your agreement, the lender can still change their minds based on anything which they may learn before they advance funds. There are usually many conditions attached to any loan approval, such as verification of income, down payment, employment. Make sure you work with your mortgage broker to satisfy all of these conditions and requirements as soon as possible in the process. The worst words a lawyer can hear from a lender on the day of closing is “The file is in underwriting”. This typically means that someone else is reviewing the entire file because issues have arisen. In some cases this can result in the entire loan being cancelled, right on the day of closing. In our firm, since we receive and send funds via wire transfer, we are fortunately able to complete deals even when lenders are late transferring funds to our trust account.

 3. Always know the net amount you will receive from your lender

Every mortgage commitment is different. Some may contain up-front fees for arranging the loan, appraisals, CMHC fees and HST, interest to the interest adjustment date. All of these fees are deducted right off the top, before the balance is sent to your lawyer on the day of closing. The bottom line is you must know the exact amount that will be sent to your lawyer on closing, to make sure you have enough to make up the rest of the down payment, land transfer tax and legal fees. At our firm we remind clients to send us their mortgage instructions early in the process so that we can get them the net amount they will need to complete the transaction in a timely manner.

In Muskoka lenders sometimes have requirements for additional documentation. Things like water potability certificates, septic use permits, proof of properly installed water treatment (disinfection) systems, road access agreements to prove year round access, final occupancy permits and zoning even an inspector’s statement regarding the type of wiring and insulation. A mortgage can’t be advanced without insurance on the property, so a W.E.T.T. inspection may be necessary for wood burning devices. Ultimately the underwriter at the lending institution is responsible for making sure that the lender’s investment is protected.  Sadly, they are not concerned with how much a buyer loves a property or how much the seller needs the transaction to close.

I hope that after reading this you will be cautious when buying or selling a Muskoka home or cottage. A good Realtor® will always put the interests of the client ahead of their own and encourage you to use a financing clause if there is any possibility you may need one.

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.