Lifestyle June 11, 2020

7 Things Everyone With a Home Needs to Know

One of the best things about buying a home is no longer waiting on a landlord to fix any issues that may come up in your living space. On the other hand, one of the worst things about owning a home is that any issues that do arise on your property are entirely your responsibility. That’s why, when you become a homeowner, one of the most important things you need to do is familiarize yourself with the most common tasks you may need to complete should an issue ever arise. Here are some of the top contenders:

1) How to Shut Off Your Water

Water damage can be one of the most costly repairs you may encounter as a homeowner. And knowing how to stop it before it gets out of hand may just be the difference between a few minutes with the mop and a full-on wall dissection.

While it may sound like a labour-intensive job to shut off all the water in your house, it is actually just as simple as twisting just one knob, known as your main water valve. True, you can find several valves throughout your plumbing system that are able to control individual areas of your home separately. But when emergency strikes, you’ll value the time saved just cutting it all off, rather than trying to find the right one.

If you live in the city of Saskatoon, or have city water fed to your home, your main water valve should be in your basement just near your water heater. If your home runs on well water, you’ll usually find yours near your water storage tank.

2) All About Furnace Filters

Furnace filters are what clean the air in your home, filtering out particles before feeding the air back to you, and they typically need to be changed every couple of months—sooner if you’ve been doing renovations! Because you’ll never know quite when they’ll need to be replaced each time, it’s always a good idea to have a few extras on-hand just in case.

Not all furnaces are created equal, and the same can be said for their filters, too. Not only do they vary in size, but also in efficiency, as well. Other than your size, you’ll want to know your MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value), which can range from 1-16. Of course, you’ll also want to know just how to change the filter, so take a moment to find the little removable panel, and be aware that removing it may be different than the one you had in your last home.

3) How to Clean Your Drain Traps

If you’ve ever checked “under the hood” of your sinks, you’ve probably seen that bit of u-shaped plumbing right underneath and you may have even wondered what that would be for. Known as a drain trap, it is a little pocket in the plumbing that holds just a little bit of water to help block gas and vapours from escaping into your home. But, while it is intended to hold water, it can also hold basically anything you pour down your drain, too, and it may need a good cleaning every once in a while to keep the pipes flowing smoothly.

Before donning your rubber gloves and getting to work, it’s always a good idea to put that main water shut off valve to use to prevent any accidents. Then, you’ll just want to place a bucket underneath, unscrew the clamps, and remove to give it a good clean.

4) Inspect Your Window & Door Seals

Over time, it’s totally normal for the seals around your windows and doors to deteriorate, and the earlier you can catch it, the more time and money you’ll save in repairs and heating costs. Every year, take some time to have a close look around your windows and doors, and keep an eye out for any cracks that may appear, sealing them quickly when you find them.

5) How to Clean Your Gutters

Every fall, we enjoy the beautiful change of scenery as the leaves change colour and fall to the ground. But the trouble is, not all of those leaves make it to the ground. In fact, quite a few of them often end up in our gutters, leading to clogs and clutter that can cause hefty water damages if left unchecked. In the spring and the fall, make time to pop up on the ladder to free up any dams that may have been forming along the gutters.

6) Resetting Ground Fault Interrupters

You may have noticed that the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms are a little different than the rest of your house. Those little buttons in the centre aren’t just for decoration, though. Those are a very important safety feature known as ground fault interrupters, typically found on outlets that are more in danger of being exposed to water.

In the event of a power surge in your house, these interrupters automatically cut the power to these outlets to prevent a devastating accident, and when you need to get things back up and running, they will need to be reset to turn back on again once it is safe. All you need to do is look for the little button in the middle. If it is popped out, simply pop it back in again, and get back to blowdrying your hair or mixing that cookie dough!

7) Labeling Your Electrical Panel

Most of us have probably dealt with a breaker that needs to be flipped, and usually know where to go to find it. But if you’ve ever had to do that with an unlabeled panel, then you’ll know the hassle of either running up and down the stairs to check if it worked or enlisting the help of a friend or family member to call out to you.

Rather than waiting for a breaker to blow, then flipping through all the breakers at that time, take a moment when you move in to carefully label each switch. While it may take you a little while to figure out which switch is which, knowing the differences will not only save you time in an emergency later on, but it can also save time for an electrician, should you ever need their help in your home, too!

 

Owning a home can be a wonderful venture, especially as a first time home buyer, but if you’re not sure how to handle a little regular maintenance, it can also be quite a headache. By taking care of these essential homeowner tasks, though, you’ll be better equipped to handle the little things as they come, saving yourself both time and money moving forward!

Buying January 9, 2020

6 Questions to Ask Before Becoming a First Time Home Buyer

You’ve heard it over and over again, “Why are you still renting? You’re just paying someone else’s mortgage!” And, while that’s technically true, making the move from tenant to owner is a huge step, and one that should never be taken lightly! If you think you’re ready to start wading into the water of being a first time home buyer in Saskatoon, here are a few questions to ask before getting started:

1. Am I Financially Ready to Become a First Time Home Buyer?

Just because you’re “paying someone else’s mortgage”, doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford to pay your own just yet! The benefit of tenancy is the option to call it quits after the conditions of your term are met; you can just wipe your hands and walk away. As a homeowner, however, you’re making a 25 year commitment not just to the purchase of the home, but the upkeep, as well!

Some of the costs you’ll need to be financially prepared for when becoming a first time home buyer include:

  • Upfront Costs: the down payment (5-20% of the purchase price), closing costs (1.5 – 4% of the purchase price), and moving costs.

  • Ongoing Costs: monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, condo fees (if applicable), repairs, and ongoing maintenance.

If you’re not sure how to calculate all this on your own, a Mortgage Calculator can be a great tool in giving you an idea of where you stand financially!

2. Am I Going to Use a REALTOR®?

For first time home buyers there is often quite a bit of confusion around real estate agents, especially when it comes to how much they cost. Well, I’m here to clear it up for you once and for all: as a buyer, using a REALTOR® will cost you absolutely nothing at all! That’s right—whether you decide to purchase or not, a home buyer will never pay a cent to use the services of a real estate agent, which means you are getting quite the bang for your buck.

For the low, low price of FREE, here are just some of the things your REALTOR® will help you with when buying your first home:

  • Market insight and years of experience to educate you in buying a home in Saskatoon

  • Writing offers & counter offers

  • Negotiating terms on your behalf

  • Post-sale assistance, up to and beyond possession day!

 

3. Do I Need to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage?

While it’s not an essential step in the process of buying your first home, getting preapproved for a mortgage can help better define what it is you can afford and set you up with some very realistic expectations as a first time home buyer. That way, you can keep your budget in mind and prevent yourself from falling in love with that riverfront home in City Park you just can’t afford.

Similar to working with a REALTOR®, getting preapproved for a mortgage is absolutely free and relatively painless if done right with the help of a professional mortgage specialist. Not sure who to work with? Our preferred partners at RBC work right here in the office and work with home buyers and sellers of all sorts each and every day, so you can trust that they know what they are doing!

4. What Am I Looking for In My First Home?

With so many listings to choose from, it can often be entirely overwhelming to know where to even start with your home search. And while a REALTOR® can be a great help, only you will know what you need in your home. Take a moment before you start your search to narrow down the playing field a little and save yourself the hours of scrolling through listings in the future. Think about everything from space to accessibility to what’s important to you. Don’t focus on the face value—paint colours, fixtures, appliances—which can all easily be brought up to snuff on a long weekend. Instead, look at what can’t be renovated away, like the number of bedrooms and the neighbourhood.

Then, with your narrowed search criteria, your real estate agent can better define which homes to show you and which ones to steer clear of. They can even set you up to receive automatic updates on new listings that match your exact criteria, so you’ll never miss a potential perfect property!

5. Am I Buying with My Partner?

Whether you are married or not, if you are considering buying your first home with your partner, the very first thing you’ll want to do is talk. Talk about your financial histories and how you plan on managing the payments moving forward. Will you be making separate monthly mortgage payments or opening a joint bank account where payments will automatically be withdrawn? And especially if you’re not married, you’ll want to strongly consider drafting up a contract about the expectations for each of you moving forward. No one is expecting the partnership to fail, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared just in case.

6. What Financial Assistance Options Are Available to Me?

To help first time home buyers make their way into the world of real estate, the Government of Canada has actually set out quite a few fantastic options for getting your finances in order. This includes:

The First Time Home Buyer’s Incentive, which helps eligible first time home buyers with the necessary down payment to finance between 5-10% of their home purchase on a shared equity plan with the Government of Canada. This helps to lower your monthly mortgage payment, and you won’t need to worry about repaying it for 25 years or until you’re ready to sell!

The Home Buyer’s Amount is a $5000 non-refundable income tax credit for qualifying homes purchased during the calendar year. It provides up to $750 in federal tax relief, helping to alleviate the costs associated with purchasing a home.

The Home Buyer’s Plan allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 in one calendar year from your RRSPs if you are buying  a home for either yourself or a relative with a disability.

The GST/HST New Housing Rebate allows you to recover part of the GST/HST you had to pay in buying your new home, if you qualify.

Becoming a first time home buyer can be a tricky and confusing time for many Saskatoon residents, but it can also be a very exciting one, too! And by asking the right questions up front and consulting with real estate experts, you’ll be more than prepared to handle the big change in your life, as soon as you’re ready to make it happen.