Kamis, 20 Juli 2017

Dealing With Aluminum Wiring

Aluminum wiring was used extensively in the residential market from 1965 to 1976, but is no longer a popular wiring material for branch circuits. Problems have been reported from the overheating and failure of aluminum wiring terminations. Symptoms of this include receptacle discolouration, flickering lights, the smell of hot plastic insulation and sometimes an electrical-induced static noise on the radio and/or television.

Aluminum wiring in a home will operate as safely as any other type of wiring if the proper materials are used and it is installed to the manufacturer’s instructions and the Electric Safety Code of the jurisdiction where you live.
If you are trying to sell a home with aluminum wiring, one of the biggest obstacles will be when the potential buyers try to obtain insurance. The insurance underwriter often insists on having the electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician who has experience in inspecting and repairing aluminum wiring.
Your home inspector should strongly recommend that you hire a qualified electrical contractor experienced in repairing aluminum wiring to do a thorough inspection of the electrical system, even if the insurance company does not request one.
The inspection should include the following:
  1. Visually check terminations at devices without removing or disturbing the devices.
  2. Cut back any damaged aluminum conductors and join these to a copper tail using an approved connector for use with aluminum. These connectors are brown or purple depending on the manufacturer.
  3. The copper tail is then terminated at the terminal screws of an approved ordinary device.
  4. Sometimes the damaged section can be cut back, removing the damaged aluminum conductors and re-terminated at a new device bearing the marking CO/ALR.
  5. Only devices bearing this CO/ALR marking are currently approved for use with aluminum wiring.
  6. Panel board terminations should be checked for signs of overheating.
  7. Fuses installed for heavy loads should be temperature sensitive Type D or Type P.
  8. Circuits should never be overloaded or over fused regardless of wiring type.
Someone who has not examined the wiring in your house cannot reliably assure you about the condition that this wiring is in.  Yet,  in response to inquiry by owners or buyers of homes containing aluminum electrical branch wiring, there have been reports that some individuals in the field say the aluminum wiring in your house is not likely to be a problem.
The condition of aluminum electrical wiring connections vary greatly from house to house and even from branch circuit to branch circuit within a particular house. It is possible for very unsafe conditions to be present, but not visible, in any house with aluminum branch circuit wiring.
It is inaccurate and even dangerous for anyone to make any representation about the condition of aluminum wiring in a specific property without an on-site inspection.

Are the connections to the aluminum wire in any branch circuit safe? Without determining what types of connections are in the system and how they were made, nobody can answer the question definitively.
Are the receptacles “push-in” or “screw-terminal” type? If screw-terminal wired, how is the wire placed under the screw? (Does the wire go straight in or is it wrapped around the connector)? Are the screws steel or brass? Are the screws plated with zinc on the neutral side? What kind of splicing connectors exist in the system? If they are twist-on connectors (“wire nuts”), are they the live spring or restrained spring type? Did the installer clean the aluminum wire to remove the oxide before making the connection?
Were the spliced wires pre-twisted together? Was a proper corrosion inhibitor used on all connections?
Only after having the answers to all of these questions (from direct observations), can an evaluation of the relative safety of the wiring system be made.
These types of questions cannot be answered by a visual home inspection. Consequently, when a house contains any branch aluminum wire circuits, the client is strongly advised to have the electrical system thoroughly inspected by a qualified, licensed electrical contractor familiar with aluminum wiring.
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Rabu, 19 Juli 2017

Mortgage Fraud

How to Protect Yourself When Purchasing or Refinancing a Home
Beware of promises of easy money in real estate. Consumers who knowingly misrepresent information when buying or refinancing a home are committing mortgage fraud.

What is Mortgage Fraud?

Mortgage fraud occurs when someone deliberately misrepresents information to obtain mortgage financing that would not have been granted if the truth had been known. This can include:
  • Misstating your position or inflating your income or length of service at your job.
  • Stating you are a salaried/full time employee when you are a contract, part time, hourly or commission-based employee or are self-employed.
  • Misrepresenting the amount and/or source of your down payment.
  • Purchasing a rental property and misrepresenting it as owner-occupied.
  • Not disclosing existing mortgage and/or debt obligations.
  • Misrepresenting property details or omitting information in order to inflate the property value.
  • Adding co-borrowers who will not be residing in the home and do not intend to take responsibility for the mortgage.
Another common form of fraud is when a con artist convinces someone with good credit to act as a straw buyer.

A straw buyer is someone who agrees to put his or her name on a mortgage application on behalf of another person. In return for their participation, straw buyers may be offered cash or promised high returns when the property is sold. Often, straw buyers are deceived into believing they will not be responsible for the mortgage payments.

Consequences of Misrepresentation

Borrowers who misrepresent information and straw buyers who allow a property to be purchased in their name are committing mortgage fraud and will be liable for any financial shortfall in the event of default. They may also be held criminally responsible for their misrepresentation.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

To protect yourself and your family from becoming victims of, or accomplices to mortgage fraud, be an informed consumer. This means:
  • Never deliberately misrepresent information when applying for a mortgage.
  • Never accept money, guarantee a loan or add your name to a mortgage unless you fully intend to purchase the property. If you allow your personal information to be used for a mortgage, even for a brief period, you could be held responsible for the entire debt even after the property is sold.
  • Always know who you are doing business with. Use licensed or accredited mortgage and real estate professionals.
  • Never sign legal documents without reading them thoroughly and being sure you understand them.  If uncertain, obtain a second legal opinion or, if necessary, the services of a translator.
  • Get independent legal advice from your own lawyer / notary. Talk to your lawyer / notary about title insurance and other alternative methods of protection.
  • Your lawyer will advise you if anyone other than the seller has a financial interest in the home or if there are any outstanding liens or tax arrears.
  • Contact the local provincial Land Titles Office to obtain the sales history of any property you are thinking about buying, and consider having it inspected and appraised. An accredited appraiser will provide the property sales and MLS history.
  • If a deposit is required, make sure the funds are payable to and held in trust by the vendors realty company or a lawyer / notary.
  • Be wary of anyone who approaches you with an offer to make easy money in real estate. Remember: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There are also simple steps you can take to protect yourself from another common form of fraud: identity theft. These include:
  • Never give out your personal information until you know who you are dealing with and how your information will be used. This includes requests for information in person, by mail, or over the phone or Internet.
  • Never reply to e-mails or phone calls that ask for your banking information, credit card details, passwords or other personal or sensitive information, particularly if you did not initiate the exchange.
  • Review your mail, bank statements and other financial statements on a regular basis to look for any inconsistencies. If you do not receive a bill on time, follow up with your creditors or service providers. You may also wish to contact your local Postal Outlet to ensure your mail has not been held or re-routed.
  • Shred or destroy all personal and financial documents before you throw them away.
  • Obtain and verify your credit report at least annually by contacting Canadas two credit-reporting agencies: Equifax Canada at www.equifax.ca and TransUnion Canada at www.transunion.ca.
 Reporting Fraud

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been the victim of mortgage fraud, please contact your local police department or The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

On-line: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
Toll Free: 1-888-495-8501      
Toll Free Fax: 1-888-654-9426    E
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Selasa, 18 Juli 2017

Affordable Style

Redecorating our living spaces has never been more popular. Turn on the television these days and chances are youll come across one of numerous programs featuring a team of designers who transform a home in just a few days. Astonishing before and after photos demonstrate what can be achieved with some paint, a few furniture upgrades and a good layout. What we dont see, of course, are the hours of planning and preparation that have led up to the televised decorating frenzy.

Unfortunately, most of us dont have a large budget, much less a team of designers working for us. So where do you start and how will you afford it? The following ideas will help you add comfort and beauty to any space without breaking the bank.

Start with colour. Paint is one of the most important tools for decorators; paint is a relatively inexpensive way to dramatically change the look of a room. You can open up a small space with light tones. You can warm a room with red, orange or yellow. Shades of blue and green can be soothing. A powerful accent colour, such as rust red, painted on one wall can create a focal point. Consider your personal preferences. Redecorating is an opportunity to create the home youve always wanted. Keep in mind, however, that dark tones will require several coats to cover if you want to change them later.

Another consideration when selecting paint is your existing furniture. Ask yourself which pieces you like and which ones you plan to recover or replace. For example, if you have a sofa and chair that you like, study the fabric for clues to a good colour scheme for the entire room. Take close-up photos of the fabrics and bring the photos with you to the paint store. There you can easily test out several combinations of colours. Before you buy any paint, be sure to bring the swatches home and put them against the walls and the furniture. Swatches can look far different under the fluorescent lighting at the store than they will in your home.
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Senin, 17 Juli 2017

How Much Rent is Too Much?

Everyone seems to have one on television. Magazines are filled with them. Now its time to get one of your own. That beautiful, bright, stylish apartment youve always dreamed might be out there but wait till you see the rent.

New or renovated apartments and condominiums can offer all the luxurious amenities you might want in a home: a dishwasher, gas fireplace, panoramic view, secure monitored entranceways, new carpet or hardwood and even a concierge. If you are extremely lucky you may get a deal-the building may be desperate to find a tenant or may have some minor flaw that doesnt bother you. Typically, however, you will end up paying for these amenities. Every renter has to consider whether these luxuries merit perhaps an extra $200-300 above the cost of a modest but comfortable dwelling.

How much you want to spend on rent is a personal decision although it is good to consider some basic guidelines. We can all stretch our budgets somewhat by cutting down on extras like clothing or restaurant meals but people tend to fall back into habitual spending patterns. Financial planners usually suggest that people spend no more than 25% of their gross income on rent. If for example you earn $1600 per month you should spend a maximum of $400 on rent. If you earn $2400 per month you should spend no more than $600. (If you live in a large city you will probably already be at or above the 25% figure.)

Dont forget your monthly base of expenses. Telephone, transportation (car insurance and gasoline or fare for public transportation) and food are constants. You may also have to pay for cable, heat, hot water and electricity depending on the building you choose. Its a good idea to check with your local utilities for a list of previous heating and electric costs for the property. Many older buildings lack proper insulation and a quick background check can save you from exorbitant heating bills. Dont forget one of your most important basic expenses-savings. Be sure your budget allows for regular payments to your investments.

More hidden expenses
First-time movers are often shocked at the cost of moving. Small local moving companies typically start at $25/hour all the way to $75/hour for professional movers. Even a short cross-town move can cost $200. Long distance moving rates are usually calculated on distance and weight.

Damage deposits can be anywhere from $100 to an entire months rent. Some apartments require separate deposits for roommates. In some jurisdictions, landlords are required to pay a minimum amount of annual interest on these funds.

If you own a pet you may be required to pay an additional security deposit. Amounts range from $50 to $300 per animal. Check the fine print on these deposits-they may be partially or completely non-refundable. Your building policy may state that the non-refundable portion covers cleaning and maintenance specifically related to pets. The first month at a new home can be the most expensive since it will include moving expenses and deposits. Ensure you have adequate cash flow to cover emergencies.

Consider these factors when making your final decision on your dream home:
  • Is it safe to walk alone in the neighbourhood?
  • Is it close to work? Is it close to public transportation?
  • Does it include secure parking or a parking space on the street?
  • Are stores, banks and other essentials nearby?
Sometimes, regardless of your income, high rents can be a financial step backwards. At a certain level it makes more sense to purchase and build equity. Many factors need to be considered before you buy: interest rates, location, job security and mobility among others. Speak to a financial planner to discuss your personal situation or to real estate agent to determine the characteristics of your local market. Living in a modest home for now may help you eventually get your luxury dream home-with your name on the deed!
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Minggu, 16 Juli 2017

50 Ways to Save Energy ( and $) Around Your Home

Recent power outages in North America are a reminder of how extensively we depend on electricity to function. Among other things, it provides light and heat, keeps our food cool and brings the world into our homes through our televisions and computers. As the demand for power has increased, so has the incidence of blackouts and price increases in some parts of the country. Homeowners have a strong incentive to save energy and money but often dont know where to start. The following are some simple ways to plug the money drains around your home.
Hot Water
  1. Keep your hot water thermostat set at 110-120 C (most are set at 140 C).
  2. Install an automatic timer so that water is heated only during the hours needed.
  3. Wash clothing in cold or warm water rather than hot water.
  4. Insulate your water heater with a fire resistant water heater blanket.
  5. Install an aerator on your kitchen sink faucet to save on hot water.
  6. Reduce water usage by installing a low-flow showerhead.
  7. Suds savers on washers allow you to reuse hot water for multiple loads.
  8. Consider heating your pool (and your home) with solar heat.
  9. Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms, storage areas, etc.
  10. Insulate floors over unheated spaces such as crawl spaces and the garage.
  11. Install storm doors before cold weather arrives.
  12. Repair cracks and gaps in window seals (the putty around the glass).
  13. Seal gaps around water pipes where cold air may enter the room.
  14. If you have single pane windows, upgrade to energy efficient double panes.
  15. Dont forget to weather-strip your attic door to prevent heat from escaping.
  16. Remind your children to close the door immediately upon entering or exiting.
  17. Repair cracks and gaps in your fireplace.
  18. Remove awnings from south-facing windows during winter months.
  19. Open draperies and shades in winter to let in sunshine then close them at night.
  20. Use insulating window film to keep heat from escaping to the outdoors.
  21. Plant leafy deciduous trees on the sunny side of your house the leaves will provide shade in the summer and drop to allow sun through in the winter.
  22. Plant coniferous trees (e.g. fir, pine) on the north and west side of your home to block cold winds.
  23. Choose pots and pans that match the element size so that heat is not wasted.
  24. Cook with lids on your pots food will heat more evenly and you will be able to lower the heat setting.
  25. Plan ahead so that an entire meal can be prepared in the oven at same time.
  26. Cook desserts and baked goods in the oven along with meals.
  27. Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking.
  28. Turn off the oven 5 minutes early it will remain hot long enough to complete the job if the door is left closed.
  29. Dont peek in the oven during cooking -approximately 25% of the heat escapes.
  30. Use a toaster oven rather than your regular oven to cook small items.
  31. Run the dishwasher only when it is full.
  32. Dont overfill the refrigerator, as this blocks air circulation. Conversely, a full freezer will perform better than an empty one.
  33. Dont place your refrigerator or freezer in direct sunlight.
  34. Leave a gap of at least 6cm between the refrigerator coils and the wall.
  35. Defrost your freezer regularly for maximum efficiency.
  36. Clean the refrigerators air intake grill (below the doors) and coils every 6 months.
  37. Allow hot foods to cool for up to 20 minutes before putting them in the refrigerator.
  38. Choose a temperature setting for your freezer that is adequate and not overly cold.
  39. Use task lighting where you need it rather than illuminating an entire room.
  40. Compact florescent bulbs use approximately 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last longer.*
  41. Turn off lights whenever you leave a room or dont need them.
  42. Use a motion sensor light rather than leaving an outdoor light on all night.
  43. Open up the curtains for light. If privacy is an issue, try sheers or reflective film.
  44. Wash your clothes in cold or warm water rather than hot water.
  45. Rinsing in cold water saves energy and reduces wrinkles.
  46. Wait until you have a full load to do a wash.
  47. Dry consecutive loads to utilize otherwise wasted heat from the dryer.
  48. Clean the lint filter after every load a clogged filter can increase energy consumption and can be a fire hazard.
  49. Check the EnerGuide labels when you shop for appliances the lower the kilowatt/hour number shown, the more efficient the appliance.
  50. Front-loading washers use roughly half the water per load and are more effective at squeezing the water out of the clothes which lowers the electricity costs for drying them.
Saving energy and money doesnt require a drastic change in lifestyle. Even small changes around our homes can make a difference.

* Compact florescent bulbs last up to eight times longer than incandescent bulbs and use up to 75% less energy. If every household in British Columbia replaced just two regular incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs, enough energy would be saved to provide the electricity needs of 21,000 homes each year.
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Sabtu, 15 Juli 2017

How to Choose a Realtor

Here are several points to consider when looking for a professional/reliable Realtor:
  • Obtain recommendations from friends and business associates;
  • Check the reputation of the brokerage firm;
  • Go to several open houses and build a rapport with the agents, then choose the one you think is best for your needs;
  • Verify the Realtors track record, e.g. how long has he/she been in business; what do previous customers think about his/her performance;
  • Look for an agent who is familiar with the area you want to live in;
  • Review ads in your local newspaper;
  • Note the For Sale signs and jot down the key information as you drive through prospective neighbourhoods;
  • Make sure the Realtor you choose is someone you feel comfortable with someone who listens to your needs and is genuinely interested in helping you find the right home;
  • Verify the Realtors knowledge about the housing market and financing options;
  • Ask the Realtor bluntly what he/she will do for you;
  • Ask for references from buyers for whom the Realtor previously worked.
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Jumat, 14 Juli 2017

Burglary Prevention

Odds are that some day your home will be broken into. In fact, over 450,000 Canadian households were burglarized in 1998. The best way to minimise your risk of becoming a victim is to become aware of what burglars look for. By eliminating any vulnerable points of entry and taking some security measures, you can reduce your chances of becoming a crime statistic.

  • Dont leave a spare key outside. Burglars know the likely hiding spots: under a mat or planter, or on top of the doorframe. Insurance companies tend not to be too co-operative when they discover you provided the key! If you must leave a spare key outside choose a spot far from the door-in the backyard or better yet with a trustworthy neighbour.
  • Take extra precautions when you are out for the day. Most burglaries occur during the day when the occupants are at work. Remove any obstructions which a burglar could use for cover in front of your home. Trim back bushes so that any suspicious activity can be seen from the street. Turn on a radio, especially a station with talk shows, to make it seem like someone is home.
  • Use an automatic timer. Turning on a few dim lights when you go out is not a significant deterrent to crime. Most burglars know that most people who are at home have at least one room well lit and turn on other lights as they move around their home. An automatic timer can be used to turn lights, radios and televisions on and off in realistic patterns.
  • Add security peepholes to your front and back doors. These devices are available at most hardware stores and dont require any handyman skills other than drilling a hole into the door.
  • Make it look like youre home even when youre on vacation. Stop delivery of newspapers and have the post office to hold your mail. Ask a neighbour to pick up any junk mail or free newspapers that get deposited on your doorstep. If you will be gone for more than a week, arrange to have your grass cut or snow removed.
  • Get a safety deposit box. It may seem inconvenient but its a foolproof way to protect your valuables especially when youre on vacation.
  • Consider getting a dog. Not only are they great companions they are natural alarm systems. Its not important whether its large or small as long as it likes to bark at strangers on your property.
  • Mark valuables such as stereos, televisions and cameras. Engrave your drivers license number on these items with an engraving tool available through your local police department.
  • Disperse your valuables throughout your home. Make it harder for the thief to find all your jewellery or spare cash by hiding it in different places. (Thieves are onto homeowners who hide them in the ice cube tray or anywhere in the fridge so choose other locations.)
  • Never leave windows open even if you are only going to the corner store. Professional burglars can be in and out of a home in less than ten minutes. Crime statistics show that first floor windows are the second most common point of entry after the front door.
  • Invest in an alarm system. Ask friends and neighbours if they know of a reliable security company. If you cant afford an alarm system you can use official-looking alarm system stickers for your doors and windows (available at hardware stores) in the meantime.
  • Use motion sensor alarms inside your home. These devices use a laser which can detect motion even in pitch black rooms. They are inexpensive ($25-45) and run on batteries. Position the sensor at a height that will avoid pets and aim it toward an area a thief would likely pass. Turn on your motion sensor at night and enjoy greater peace of mind (although remember to turn it off before you walk past it in the morning as it can be a rude awakening!)
  • Ensure the exterior of your home is properly lit. A dark yard makes a home easy prey.
  • If you want to add a lock to your door be sure that a burglar could not reach it by putting an arm through a broken window. Also note that spring locks, with the keyhole in the doorknob are easy to jimmy. Its better to use a deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw, a 5- or 6- pin tumbler cylinder and a cylinder guard ring.
These precautions should deter all but the most persistent thieves. A house that poses several obstacles stacks the odds in the homeowners favour-chances are that the would-be thieves will move onto a more inviting house and leave your belongings and sense of security intact.
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Kamis, 13 Juli 2017

Gain Negotiating Advantage When Buying

Buying a property requires good knowledge of market conditions, personal finances as well as the ability to judge what is a good investment. Equally important is being in a position to negotiate realistically when you do decide to make an offer. That comes of doing as much up-front thinking and preparation as you can before you are actually in the position of preparing a formal offer to purchase.

Market conditions
Look at the long-range prospects of your borrowing commitment. For instance, in a period of low interest rates, you should take into consideration whether or not prices are expected to increase in the future. In that case, you may want to seriously consider locking in at a reasonable rate for the opportunity of considerable gain in the future.

How Much Can You Afford?
Before you go into the market to look for a house, review your current spending and loan commitments. A mortgage lender will use a ration of about 30% of gross income as the amount of mortgage you can carry. You will have a good idea of your own capacity if you review your finances beforehand. Property tax is an additional cost that must be factored into the equation.

Having settled on a price range for your prospective house purchase, the next step may be locking in a mortgage interest rate with a pre-approved mortgage. Knowing that you already have your mortgage arranged can increase your comfort level at the negotiating table. To arrange a pre-approved mortgage, you meet with a lender who will confirm your borrowing capacity, perform the required credit review and make an agreement to honour a particular interest rate for a specified time.

Existing Mortgage
If there is an existing mortgage on a property you are selling or on one you are looking at, there is more to consider than simply the balance outstanding and the interest rate. You should know, before you get into negotiations, whether or not the mortgage is assumable by the purchaser or is it due upon the sale. If it is assumable, must the new purchaser qualify in order to take it over and what is involved in doing that?

Be aware, as well, of any pre-payment terms. If your mortgage is open, of course, you can repay it at any time without penalty. However, a mortgager may have lock-in clauses. These may include payment of a bonus or the lenders interest revenue loss for the balance of the term should you repay early. You should clarify all this with your lender.

A very popular feature now is mortgage portability. That means that you can transfer your existing interest rate, loan balance and remaining term to a new mortgage without penalty although there may be some restrictions. Be sure you understand what they are before you get into negotiations.

Mapping the Route
Just as you would orient yourself beforehand to the law of the land in a country where you were going to live or even to visit, the same holds true for preparing your journey into the property buying market.
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