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All posts for the month March, 2017

If you’re paying a lot of money for a new washing machine, wouldn’t it be nice to know how long you should expect it to last? There is, of course, no exact formula for figuring that out. Every brand and unit is different. There are however, some broad estimates.

According to an article in Consumer Reports, a washer and dryer will hum along just fine for about 10 years, with a likelihood of needing a repair during the last two to three. Leading brands offer a parts and labour guarantee for at least a year. So, if something goes wrong during that period, be sure to contact the manufacturer right away.

The National Association of Home Builders released a report a few years ago on the longevity of kitchen appliances. They found that refrigerators can last up to 13 years under normal use. Dishwashers and ovens will start to show their age after nine years. The worst record is for trash compactors, with a life expectancy of only six years before repairs or replacement is required.

Microwave ovens last an average of nine years. However, the door seal should be checked often. Otherwise, the unit will quickly lose efficiency. (You’ll notice this when your food doesn’t heat up as quickly and evenly.)

All experts agree that the best way to keep home appliances functioning properly is to follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance. If you’ve lost your user’s manual, you can download a new one (which may contain important updates) from the manufacturer’s website.

When you’re preparing your home for sale, it’s not unusual to need to fix up a few things around the property. After all, you want your home to look its best to buyers, so that you get good offers, quickly.

What do you need to fix? Here are three categories that will help you create and prioritize your list.

Anything that squeaks or creaks.

Is there something in your home that makes a noise it shouldn’t be making? Perhaps it’s a rattling closet door or a creaking floor board? You may be so used to it you no longer notice the sound. But buyers will. Be sure to get those items fixed.

Anything that’s unsightly.

You don’t have to make your home look perfect. However, things that are unsightly will likely get buyers’ attention. You want them to focus on the terrific features of your property, not the scuff on the wall.

Take a walk through your property, including the yard. Pretend you’re the buyer. Do you notice anything that doesn’t look good? If so, tidy it up, fix it up or replace it.

Anything that’s broken.

If there’s anything that needs repair — an outside tap that’s not working, or a sliding door that regularly careens off its runner — call the contractor or fix it yourself.

Getting these items fixed will go a long way toward making your home appealing to buyers.

You don’t have to freeze in the winter or start reading by candlelight to reduce your electricity bill. There are many simple ways to use less power with little, if any, impact on your lifestyle.

A good place to start is with your electronics.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Any gizmo that has a clock, digital timer, remote control or standby mode is sucking energy when it’s not being used (it’s called ‘phantom electricity’ — and it’s scary how much of it there is).” So keep them unplugged as much as possible. Also, unplug charger cords for phone and computers when not in use. Even when not connected to the device, they still suck power.

Another easy change to make involves your lights. Switching to compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs can save you a lot of energy. They’re 75% more efficient.

Finally, the old-fashioned method of insulating doors and windows can work wonders for lowering your electricity bill. In fact, some particularly drafty homes can lose up to 40% of their heat. Check for drafts regularly and repair or replace insulation as needed.

None of these ideas will impact your day-to-day living. Yet, they could potentially save you a bundle.

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As expected, the Bank of Canada announced today that it is holding the overnight rate at 0.5%, noting that “the global and Canadian economies have been consistent with the Bank’s projection of improving growth” although “exports continue to face ongoing competitive challenges” and that even with gains in employment, there still is “subdued growth in wages.” As uncertainties continue to weigh on the economy, the Bank “judges that the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate.”

Overall, the global economy is strengthening largely as anticipated and prices of some commodities, including oil (at $54 US), have risen. In contrast to the United States, Canada’s economy continues to operate with material excess capacity. The US unemployment rate has fallen well below Canada’s and is widely expected to continue to run below Canada’s over the next few years. Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar (at $0.76 to $1 American dollar) has strengthened along with the US dollar against other currencies, hampering the outlook for exports. Consumption is expected to remain solid, while residential investment will continue to be tempered by previously announced changes to housing finance rules. The Bank of Canada projects that Canada’s real GDP will grow by 2.1% in both 2017 and 2018.

We expect to see interest rates staying low in Canada well into 2020. The Bank of Canada believes it must continue its monetary policy of ultra-low rates to control inflation, stimulate other sectors of the economy besides housing and spur our Canadian export market.

The new mortgage rules announced in 2016 mean lenders now have different rules and rates for insurable vs. uninsurable mortgages. If a mortgage is insurable, it will qualify for the best rates. Most homebuyers know that if they have less than 20% downpayment, they need to pay for mortgage insurance as a way to protect the lender. In order to obtain the lowest cost of funds, some lenders use this insurance to insure mortgages with more than 20% equity.

Mortgages that are “uninsurable” can include rental properties and second homes, switch mortgages that move to another lender, 30-year amortizations, refinance mortgages, mortgages over $1 million, and even some conventional 5-year mortgages. These mortgages are now charged a rate premium and some lenders no longer offer them. Additionally, interest rate surcharges are often charged if it’s difficult to prove your income or you have bad credit, the property is in a rural location, you want a long rate hold, you want the best pre-payment privileges and porting flexibility, and you don’t want refinance restrictions. As a result, be wary of rates you see online, because you might not qualify for them.

Without a doubt, insurable vs. uninsurable has made the mortgage landscape significantly more confusing. Getting good solid advice is critical, and Mortgage Brokers, with access to alternative lenders with flexible guidelines, have never been more important in the home financing process.

Get in touch today if you are planning to purchase or move to another property and subscribe to my blog for the next mortgage update.