2 Mar

Spring Cleaning Tips!

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

As the sun starts coming back around, it is a great time to scrub those windows and deep clean your home! Here are some tips for a successful Spring cleaning adventure:

  1. Create a Playlist: Everything is more fun with a great playlist! Not only is music great therapy but it can make the cleaning process go by quicker and make it more enjoyable.
  2. Clean One Room at a Time: While we all like seeing our homes sparkly and fresh, it can sometimes be an overwhelming process to get to that point. To help minimize the stress of your Spring cleaning project, work one room at a time! Start with the smaller rooms, or those that need the least amount of cleaning, and work your way up to the larger, project rooms. Another option is to tackle one or two rooms each weekend for the month and by the time April comes, you’ll be ready!
  3. Declutter as You Go: Spring cleaning isn’t just about shining up the brass on the door and dusting. It is just as important to declutter your space! Before you start cleaning the room, it is a good idea to pinpoint items that can be discarded, such as old magazines and papers, as well as to go through closets and cupboards for anything that you can donate (like that sweater you bought and never wore). This will clear up space for new clothing and items and will make you feel that much more accomplished!
  4. Think Green: Spring cleaning allows us to start the season off on a fresh, clean note. Don’t muddy that up with harsh chemical cleaners. In today’s eco-friendly environment, there are many safe alternatives to regular cleaners. Vinegar is a great substitute in the bathroom or kitchen as well as combining vinegar, baking soda and water as a deep clean alternative. You can also opt for a steam cleaner to manage tile, hardwood floors, appliances and even outdoor areas as they only use hot water and vapor.
  5. Work From Top to Bottom: Starting from the ceiling and working your way down just makes sense! This will force debris downward and save you having to re-clean your space. Dusting first will prevent a headache later too!
  6. Don’t Forget The Fridge & Freezer: The best time to clean out your fridge and freezer is right before you do your grocery shop, so they will be at their most empty. Take everything out and dispose of anything that is past its expiration date and any almost-empty items you won’t use. Before you restock be sure to wipe down the interior of the fridge with disinfectant and a damp cloth. The same can be done for the freezer but you’ll have to defrost it first!
  7. Clean Air Reduces Allergies: Replacing furnace and HVAC filters is one of the most overlooked parts of Spring cleaning. Going as far as replacing your standard filter with a more robust one with a higher rating will help keep you even healthier this year as they catch smaller particles to ensure your home is void of allergen triggers, chemicals and even odors.
2 Mar

6 Smart Ways to Cut Your Energy Costs

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

In the last decade, climate change and energy efficiency have become top of mind for many Canadians. From wanting to do our part by recycling to making our home as energy efficient as possible, there are so many benefits to being environmentally and energy conscious.

If you are looking to cut costs or simply want to reduce your eco footprint, here are some great ways to cut your energy costs!

Get a Smart Thermostat: A pretty easy installation, a smart thermostat can help you better manage your in-home temperature. Whether you opt to install a basic programmable thermostat or try the Google’s Nest, which learns from you and works to predict which temperatures you prefer and when, getting a read on your in-home temperature can help you better manage your energy usage.

Look for Drafty Spots: When it comes to heating your home, it can quickly become a wasted effort and results in extra costs if you have drafts in your home. In addition to windows and doors, you should also seal any folding attic stairs, add a fireplace plug to seal the damper and install a dryer vent seal to reduce drafts in your laundry room.

Swap to LEDs: Most of us are already using LED bulbs throughout our home. If you aren’t yet, now is the time to make the switch! LED bulbs use 15% less energy than an equivalent incandescent, which can save you a ton of money each month especially in larger homes.

Turn Down Your Water Heater: While sometimes nothing beats a good scalding shower, you don’t want to be burned with a high energy bill. Did you know if you knock down that temperature gauge by just 10 degrees, you can save 3% to 5% on your bills each month!?

Examine Your Appliances: Since 1992, ENERGY STAR® has been backing energy efficient appliances and products, helping consumers make the right choices.

Some of the least green appliances in your home are your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and refrigerator and, if you don’t currently have Energy Star certified versions of these machines, swapping to them is a sure-fire way to reduce your monthly expenses.

Can’t afford new appliances? Here are some other tips and tricks to help make them more efficient in the meantime:

  • Dishwasher: Use a citric acid-based cleaner in an empty cycle to rid your dishwasher of excess soap and calcium buildup that may be causing your machine to work harder.
  • Washing Machine: Maximize energy by stuffing your machine to the brim whenever possible as washing machines typically use the same amount of energy regardless of load size.
  • Dryer: For starters, ensure you are always cleaning out your lint filter to increase air circulation. In addition, keep an eye on the outside exhaust and clean when needed to reduce drying time and save energy.
  • Refrigerator: While most of us are more concerned with the food inside our fridges than the parts, it is important to check your condenser coils. Over time, dirt, food particles and dust can collect and reduce the efficiency. Another tip is to set your refrigerator to 36- and 38-degrees Fahrenheit.

Close The Blinds: When the temperature starts heating up, it is important to close the blinds and drapes to prevent the sun from beating in and warming up your home. The excessive heat makes your air conditioner work overtime causing your energy bills to skyrocket.

In addition to the cost savings and environmental benefits of improving your energy efficiency, CMHC also has a rebate available! This rebate can provide a 15-25% insurance premium rebate on buying new or performing renovations that meet energy efficiency standards!

2 Mar

Preparing for the Spring Market

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Spring is almost here! To help you get prepared for the Spring market, I have put together some details on what you need to know whether you’re buying or selling!

Selling this Spring? Here are some great tips for those of you looking to sell your home this Spring!

  1. Hire an Experienced Realtor: Before preparing your home for the Spring market, you will want to hire an experienced realtor! A good realtor will serve as your guide through the entire sales process, helping you get your home ready for listing, showing potential buyers and finalizing the eventual sale. This is even more important given the changing landscape in relation to additional safety protocols with viewings and even virtual viewing options. Now, more than ever, the expertise of a realtor will help you navigate the sales process.
  2. Prioritize Repairs and Improvements:Before listing your home, it is important to go through room-by-room and address any issues such as chipped paint, small holes in the wall, broken fixtures, old appliances, etc. Correcting these minor issues will help your home truly shine when buyers walk through.
  3. Clean and Stage Your Home: Now that you have made the necessary minor repairs, you can start staging your home! Start with the exterior of your home and ensure you tidy up the yard, remove any junk and wash your windows! When it comes to the interior of your home, you will want to declutter and do a deep clean (a professional cleaning service can come in handy for this!). Once your home is decluttered and clean, your real estate agent can help you stage it so that it appears spacious and inviting.
  4. Consider a Pre-Listing Inspection: Once you are ready to list your home, it can be a good idea to consider a pre-listing inspection. The inspector would conduct a complete visual inspection of all interior and exterior elements (including HVAC systems, wiring, ceiling, chimneys, gutters, etc.), which would help put prospective buyers at ease.
  5. Organize The Paperwork: There is a lot of paperwork when it comes to selling your home. Having all of these documents organized and together for potential buyers will help to speed up the process and allow them to address any questions before the deal is finalized. Permits, renovation or repair receipts, warranties, rental agreements and copies of your utility bills are all good records for potential buyers.

Looking to Buy This Spring? If you want to enter the real estate market this Spring, there are some things you should consider – especially if you are a first-time home buyer!

  1. Get Pre-Approved: One of the best things you can do prior to starting your home search, is to get pre-approved for a mortgage! A mortgage pre-approval is NOT an approval, and does not commit you to a single lender, but it can give you a leg up on your home ownership journey. Pre-approval helps to determine your price range and budget, as well as guaranteeing the interest rate for 90-120 days while you search for that perfect home. Having a pre-approval also lets the seller know that securing financing should not be an issue. This is extremely beneficial in competitive markets where lots of offers may be coming in!
  2. Manage Your Expectations: When it comes to house hunting, it is important to understand and manage your expectations right from the start. All potential buyers should have put together a budget, which will assist in understanding what is affordable – and you must stick with it. You also need to be realistic about what you require in a home, versus what you want in a home.
  3. Prepare Your Down Payment: If you have been thinking about purchasing a home, odds are you already have a down payment ready or have at least started saving. Once you have determined your budget, you will be more equipped to calculate the down payment amount. Keep in mind, a down payment can come from funds gifted by an immediate family member and first-time homebuyers can also utilize their RRSPs up to $35,000!
  4. Hire an Experienced Realtor: A realtor is your best tool when it comes to the housing market. They often have access to listings that are not available publicly yet, in addition to understanding the processes around purchasing a home.
  5. Don’t Forget the Inspection: Once you find a home you think you are ready to buy, make sure not to skimp on the inspection! A proper inspection is important for buyer security as they can uncover potential issues that may cost you money down the line.

Whether you are looking to buy or sell, it is important to work with a trusted real estate and mortgage professional to ensure the best outcome for you and your family! If you’re not sure where to start a mortgage professional, such as myself, has contacts in the industry and can recommend a few options for real estate agents to you – and vice versa!

3 Feb

Benefits of a Mortgage Broker

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

In a world with an abundance of options, it can be hard to know which way to turn to ensure that you make the best decision for your future. Fortunately, that’s where I come in. As your dedicated mortgage professional, I have access to 90+ lending institutions and a vast array of available mortgage products.

Whether you are a first-time home buyer, up for renewal, looking to refinance or want to discuss reverse mortgages or other options, I can help. As a one-stop-shop for your mortgage needs, I can not only save you time by shopping the market for you, but often I can save you money too. When it comes to mortgages, not all products are created equal. Fortunately, my access allows me to review all of your options and find you the best mortgage product terms and rate.

Unlike a bank specialist, I am not tied to any single lender. This allows me to focus on helping YOU achieve your dream and provide you with unbiased advice and work with you to make the best decisions for your family, and your future.

Whether you are looking for mortgage assistance now, or in the future, I would be happy to help answer any questions you have and shop the market to find you the best solution. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me anytime, or pass my information along to any friends or family you think would benefit from professional advice.

3 Feb

Family Day Activities to do During a Pandemic

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Family Day was first introduced in Alberta in 1990, and has since grown into a beloved holiday occurring on the third Monday in February. While Family Day might look a little different this year, it is rooted in the value of family and fortunately, there are many ways to spend time with our loved ones and celebrate our family units. Below are a few ideas of some activities you can do with your family this year:

  • Build a Blanket Fort: With the winter chill not quite lifted yet, building a blanket fort is a great way to spend the day with your family and watch movies, share laughs and enjoy some yummy snacks!
  • Cook a Meal Together: From making mini personalized pizzas to cooking up a brand-new recipe or baking something delicious, the kitchen is a great space for family time and making fun memories!
  • Try an Online Exercise Class: Want to enjoy your family and get a little exercise while you’re at it? Try an online workout class! Not only is this a fun activity you can do with your kids from home, but it is a great way to teach them about health and start setting up healthy habits for life.
  • Do a Virtual Tour: A number of museums worldwide are offering free virtual tours! So even if you can’t travel somewhere, you can still enjoy new cultural experiences as a family.
  • ZOOM with the Family: While you might not be able to have the entire family together, in person, we live in a digital world, which allows us to access the people we love at all times – no matter how far away they are! Call up your parents or grandparents, do an activity over the computer, have a story time session, or simply take a moment to ‘check-in’.

No matter how you spend it, I hope you have a wonderful Family Day this year and a chance to celebrate your loved ones!

3 Feb

Selling Your Home in the Winter

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

While you might think selling your home in winter is harder, with the right considerations it doesn’t have to be! When selling your home during warmer months, the focus is typically on curb appeal and gardening, as well as having bright colors and patterns to draw out different rooms. While curb appeal should not be forgotten in winter months, the focus should be centered on creating a warm, comfortable and welcoming space. Below are some tips on how to do this:

  • Curb Appeal: If you live in an area that receives high amounts of snow, be diligent about keeping your sidewalk and driveways clear for visitors, and to keep your home looking clean for the viewing. Always make sure to sweep any fallen leaves or debris.
  • Keep it Cozy: Ensuring your home is sufficiently heated during showings will also go a long way to making it feel more comfortable; a steady 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during showings is ideal.
  • Light and Inviting: With days being shorter and darker during winter, ensuring your home is well-lit and inviting can make a big difference. In some cases, you may consider repainting the walls before listing your property.
  • Declutter: When selling, it is important to declutter your home so that it looks its best and gives room for people to imagine their own belongings in your space.
  • Define Property Boundaries: If you are showing your home in the middle of snow season, be sure to mark the four corners of your property so that potential buyers can see exactly what they are getting.

While there is some extra work with selling your home in the winter due to the weather conditions, it can pay off! Buyers tend to be highly motivated and often there is less competition for sales during this time giving more focus to your home.

6 Jan

New Year Home Maintenance Plan

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

Keep your home in comfy, cozy and working order all year long with this easy maintenance schedule highlighting important areas to check – and when!

  1. January: Safety check! Start your year off on the right foot by ensuring your home is in proper working order. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries as necessary.
  2. February: The colder months are a great time to tackle indoor maintenance. Take the time to inspect your shower, tub and toilet for any leaks and recalk as needed to save you on costly repairs later in the year.
  3. March: Inspect your windows and doors for cracks as any gaps will cause heat (and air conditioning!) to escape from your home. Add weather stripping as needed to ensure they are sealed.
  4. April: As we get closer to spring, this is a great time to focus on the exterior of your home. A power-wash and deep clean of your siding and windows will help your home look its best.
  5. May: With summer just around the corner, this is a good time to check your A/C unit and ensure it is up to the challenge. Contact a professional HVAC company to service your unit and ensure it is up to optimal efficiency and output.
  6. June: As we move outside in the warmer months, this is the perfect opportunity to spruce up your deck and outdoor space. Pressure washing and resealing your deck will help keep it functional and gorgeous, all year long!
  7. July: Insects run wild in the warmer weather. To prevent damage, it is a good idea to consider a pest control plan especially if you live in a highly active area.
  8. August: As the end of the summer approaches and we get closer to the rainy season, you will want to ensure your roof is in good working order. Check the areas around your eaves and gutters for any water damage and ensure there are no leaks or loose shingles that could cause issues down the road.
  9. September: To create that warm and cozy fall atmosphere, you will want to ensure your fireplace is doing its job. This is the perfect time for a thorough inspection of your fireplace – whether wood or gas – to ensure everything is working well.
  10. October: With the gorgeous colors of fall in full swing, October is a great month to touch up the exterior of your home’s paint and boost your curb appeal. While you’re at it, make sure to check your foundations for any damage that could worsen in the colder months.
  11. November: As the leaves start to fall, it could spell a mess for your home. In November, focus on leaf and gutter cleanup. Regularly rake your yard to keep your grass green and collect any debris that may have collected in your gutters or your roof from high winds.
  12. December: You made it! Another year of home maintenance is almost done as we move into December. Get yourself snow ready by prepping your pipes and considering added insulation to keep them from freezing.
6 Jan

Time to Check-In with your Mortgage!

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

There has never been a better time for your annual mortgage health check-up! By organizing a quick mortgage review each year, it may yield you some fruitful financial savings.

Your home loan review this year will examine the most common potential monthly savings opportunities, including high-interest credit card debt or fixed loan payments. Reviewing your mortgage terms and options annually could result in having more money left over at the end of each month – and who doesn’t want that?!

For instance, are you exercising your penalty free extra payment privileges? Do you have any? Prepayment privileges allow you the opportunity to pay up to 20% extra per month and a total of up to 20% lump sum per year – without penalty! This means that for a $300,000 mortgage on a 25-year amortization, a 20% monthly payment increase can generate $18,000 worth of savings AND help you to pay off your mortgage 5 years earlier! When you add-on the annual lump sum of $2,500, the savings are increased to just over $25,000 for the year and bumps you up to being mortgage-free 8 years earlier! You can also use the My Mortgage Toolbox to calculate the potential savings from an extra payment.

 

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When it comes to mortgage payments, another great question for your annual check-up is whether or not you are on the best payment frequency for your cash flow and to best optimize savings! Most lenders offer various payment frequency and an annual mortgage review can help identify the best frequency based on changing needs and cash flow situations. A monthly payment is simply a single large payment, paid once per month; this is the default that sets your amortization. A 25-year mortgage, paid monthly, will take 25 years to pay off but includes the added burden of one larger payment coming from one employment pay period. Alternatively, an accelerated bi-weekly payment pays your mortgage every two weeks. This frequency allows the mortgage payment to be split up into smaller payments vs a single, larger payment per month. This is especially ideal for households who get paid every two weeks as the reduction in cash flow is more on track with incoming income.

These accelerated bi-weekly payments also offer interest savings, as you are actually making an extra payment each calendar year. For instance, a $300,000 mortgage on an accelerated by-weekly payment schedule will pay off your mortgage two and a half years faster and generate approx. $8,000 in savings!

That’s like getting a $10,000 a year raise just by changing your payment frequency! You can use the My Mortgage Toolbox to also calculate these payment differences.

 

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Another area to look at during your mortgage check-up are your penalties. Breaking your mortgage term early, and before the scheduled contract maturity date, will almost always incur a penalty. The amount depends on various factors such as how far you are into the existing term, your current interest and rate type, your existing lender, etc. However, with today’s rates sitting at such a historical low, there can still be savings! Now, if you break your mortgage early and incur a penalty, you can still come out ahead. For instance, it is possible to save $20,000 with a new low rate and incur a $15,000 penalty, which still puts you $5,000 ahead! Having an annual mortgage review can look at these options and determine if it is a benefit for you to chase these historically low rates.

Beyond your current payments and interest rate, consumer debt outside of the mortgage is another important area for review. Did you know? The average Canadian has $30,000 of credit card debt, at approximately 20% interest?! Reviewing your home equity situation could yield $10,000 savings, per year, by rolling debts into your home equity loan. Contact me today to discuss this further and see if it is an option for you!

 

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Pay more to save more, pursue lower rates even with a penalty, and debt consolidation are just three examples of the financial savings an annual mortgage check-up with your mortgage professional can do! With interest rates at historic lows, now is the time to investigate all your options and perhaps save yourself thousands of dollars per year, especially if your current interest rate is over 3%! Imagine what you could do with the savings – anything from renovating or investing to going on a much-needed vacation or putting money towards your children’s education.

Completing a straightforward annual review will keep your home financing as lean and trim as possible. In other words, you will have a clean bill of mortgage health, which is just what the doctor ordered! Contact me to set up a mortgage check-up today!

6 Jan

Pantone of the Year 2021

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

The Pantone Color Institute has published their 2021 Pantone trends, which features 10 standout colors as well as 5 core classics to help bring some extra spark to fashion and home this New Year.

This year’s Pantone offers a range of shades that combine a “level of comfort and relaxation with sparks of energy that encourage and uplift our moods” according to Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. This year’s choices are not only bold and illustrative, but also combine our desire for flexibility and color choice that lasts year-round.

On the 2021 Pantone we have an inspiring palette composed of marigold, cerulean, rust, illuminating yellow, French blue, mint, amethyst, burnt coral and vivid raspberry! Paired with these are the core hues of inkwell, gray, buttercream, desert mist and willow beige.

To utilize this year’s incredible colors, without wasting your time or money, try sprinkling them throughout your home as accents to brighten and uplift your space. Consider throw-pillows and rugs or other accent pieces such as swapping out your curtains, lampshades or even a quick reupholster on worn chairs to help liven up your space in time for the new year!

From comforting oranges and friendly yellows, to calming and restoring greens and blues, the 2021 Pantone palette is sure to infuse your year with reawakened senses and a fresh perspective!

2 Dec

Holiday Party Tips!

General

Posted by: Mike Hattim

With the holidays closing in, a lot of us are thinking about hosting holiday parties. While things will look a little different this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Whether you’re just celebrating with your household, or hosting a virtual gathering, preparation and ambience are everything.

Here are some tips to create that special holiday feeling:

  1. Make a List: While you might not be hosting for 50 people this year, that doesn’t mean that preparations go out the window! The mark of a good holiday celebration is planning, planning, planning! Ideally, you will want to make a list of everything you need before you get started. From food to drinks to decor, having an idea of what you need in advance will make it much easier to get everything in one go.
  2. Send Out Invitations: If you are hosting a virtual gathering, make sure to send out invitations as soon as possible. This can be a simple e-mail to friends or family with a link to join in or a fun e-card!
  3. Prep Food in Advance: When it comes to food, simple is best and whatever you can prep in advance is better. With a smaller invitee list, you can easily get away with simple finger foods. From shrimp or tuna rolls to spinach dip and bread to veggie trays or cheese and crackers, the options are endless and don’t have to require hours of prep time.
  4. Sweet and Simple Decor: When it comes to the holidays, there are endless options for decor. From traditional red and green to silver and gold or silver and blue, the best choice is one that fits your tastes. Even if you cannot host your entire neighbourhood, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that holiday feeling! A few key pieces here and there, such as a large wreath and centerpiece for the table can go a long way.
  5. Manage the Mood: To help create a cozy, holiday mood you might consider turning off your overheads and using candles to give off a warm glow and cozy scent. Music is another important factor; try mixing traditional holiday tunes with modern favourites to create the perfect feel, without back-to-back tracks of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Feliz Navidad”.