Home Safety Tips For the Holidays

woman enjoying the fireplaceIt’s full speed ahead for the holidays, now that Santa has made his first official visit to Whitehorse. (Hope you had a chance to say hello to him, as he’s been spotted a few times since the parade.) As the theme of merry and bright is on everyone’s mind, we thought we’d just pass on a few home safety tips to help keep it that way. We want to wish all of you a safe and happy holiday!

  1. We’ll start with the most obvious, which is to not overload your outlets. You may be plugging things into different outlets during the holidays to accommodate your temporary Christmas lights so keep in mind that it’s best to only have one high-wattage appliance plugged into each outlet.
  2. Most people are using LED lighting or projection lights which are cooler than the incandescent bulbs in more ways than one, plus they reduce the risk of fire. If you’re among those who have been using the same strings for years consider upgrading. As pretty as they are, unplug your Christmas lights when you’re away from the house or asleep.
  3. Keep the chimney clean to reduce the risk of chimney fires, which can quickly escalate and create situations that are out of reach for fire extinguishers.
  4.  Make sure that the extension cords you’re using for your outside lighting are marked for outdoor use and keep them clear of snow and standing water.
  5. If you’re putting up a real tree, trim the bottom to ensure that it can absorb moisture, then make sure you give it plenty of water while it’s up to keep it from drying out. Those dry branches can pose a fire hazard. If you’re tree is an artificial tree, there are products labeled as fire resistant, which are a better option. Ensure that they are placed a safe distance from your heat sources, curtains, and any flammable materials.
  6. Keep an eye on your candles while they’re burning and don’t leave them unattended.
  7. Test your smoke alarms to make sure that they are working and review your fire escape plan with your family.
  8. Make sure that your electrical cords aren’t pinched in the door jams or by furniture, or attached with nails or staples to reduce the risk of the dangerous cycle of electrical short, spark, and fire.
  9. The holidays are usually a busy time, especially with visitors. If you’re not used to having little ones around, it might mean being especially mindful of safety in the kitchen. It’s tempting to multi-task but don’t tend the stove and hold a youngster at the same time. Make sure that the pot handles on the stove can’t be reached and their kept away from the hot oven door.
  10. Electronic toys or those that require batteries can be dangerous for younger children if they’re able to remove the battery cover. Button cell batteries can causes serious damage if swallowed so supervise the kids while they’re enjoying their gifts.
    Even when lives are spared, and fire insurance coverage is in place, a home fire is a devastating event and can have traumatic outcomes for survivors. It’s always a good idea to have home safety in mind and we hope that by sharing these holiday safety tips, incidents like these can be avoided. Here are a few more winter holiday safety tips , as well as year round home safety tips to help you learn how to detect, prevent, and escape a fire. We appreciate the members and volunteers of the Whitehorse Fire Department and wish them and YOU a safe and happy holiday!

Cigarette Smoke Could Affect The Sale of Your Home

hand holding burning cigaretteA few years ago, a group called the Clean Air Coalition was formed, and decided to declare the month of June to be Smoke Free Multi-Unit Housing Month. This coalition is a partnership between the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation BC & Yukon with the goal of raising awareness about the harmful effects of second hand smoke. These days people are generally pretty conscientious about this, and awareness has certainly increased substantially from a decade ago. But what about smoking in your own home? The goal of this coalition would like to see all multi-unit housing become smoke free. The Federal Government is also considering banning smoking in shared housing such as condos and apartment buildings. While this initiative is being debated more strongly in some provinces than others, it’s something to think about regardless of which province or territory you call home. Here are a few issues the coalition have identified and changes they are working toward.

The health risks of second hand cigarette smoke have been well researched. With more people living in apartments, condos, and other forms of shared housing, drifting cigarette smoke from a neighbouring unit can cause health concerns, especially in children. So the concern is that even though the neighbours in Unit A are non-smokers, they are still affected by the second hand smoke of their neighbours in Unit B. So whose rights should be legally defended, the right to clean air for the people living in Unit A, or the rights of the people in Unit B to pursue lawful activities in the privacy of their home?

The coalition is also asking that buildings be given a smoking status. If landlords and strata corporations were required to provide tenants or buyers with a building’s smoking status, people would know where the smoking units were located before they moved in and they could be spaced or grouped accordingly.

For new strata properties, some proposed changes would include possible amendments to legislation requiring that all new shared housing buildings be smoke free, unless owners pass a 3/4 vote to allow smoking. Incentives to this end could include lower insurance, or possible tax credits.

Stale smoke odours can be a real turn off for non-smoking buyers. Smoking can reduce the resale value of a property by as much as 29% according to a 2013 survey published by CBC, Smoke particulates are so small they can cling to any surface including wall surfaces, carpets, and furniture. Before you spray air fresheners, read this blog post, which offers some helpful tips for getting the smoke smell out of your home in preparation to sell.

If you’re considering selling you home, talk to our Urban Realty Group. We can provide you with more tips to get your home clean, staged, and ready for market. Let’s get started!

4 Reasons to Downsize Your Home

Senior couple moving house

The size of your home has everything to do with its function. A hobbyist will need space for projects. A growing family will want to find a home with enough space for everyone’s individual interests, the avid gardener will want to have a property that will contain and nurture their creativity. As life changes, what makes a house feel like a home changes too. It may be time to downsize if any of these situations ring true for you.

1. The Walking Score is a feature for real estate listings that rates how accessible your home is to local amenities such as shopping, schools, and recreational facilities. If your family is active, being in the vicinity of amenities is a great alternative to spending time in your vehicle being the family chauffeur . It can also be a helpful to gauge commute times, which becomes an important consideration during a Whitehorse winter. Downsizing your family’s commute time can relieve a lot of stress.

2. The rooms that used to be full of conversation and activity are quieter when the kids leave home. It can be a period of adjustment for parents, but once the sentimental feelings ease off, the reality remains that now there are extra rooms to clean that you never use. The energy bills are more than you really require, and with fewer hands pitching in, it’s harder to get around to tending the garden you’ve always loved. Weird, you can actually hear the hum of the refrigerator.

3. When someone reaches retirement age, it usually results in a lower annual income than the prime working years. A smaller mortgage payment and reduce the stress. Selling your existing home and downsizing can also ease financial stress by giving access to your home equity.

4. Comfort in your own home is the most important thing, especially for those in the golden years, or for family members who have medical conditions that challenge mobility. Reducing the number of stairs there are to climb, and ensuring comfortable access to all the rooms in your home is another consideration. Downsizing to a single level home can make your home more comfortable.

The Urban Realty Group team will introduce you to Whitehorse listings that will suit the needs of your home. Want to be closer to Main Street, or the Canada Games Centre? Want a better view, fewer stairs, or a helpful adjustment to your personal finances? Downsizing may be the solution for you. View our current Whitehorse property listings, or contact a member of our team to book your personal tour.

Long Distance Home Care – Home Insurance Tips

sunny beach winter getawayHave you booked some early spring vacation time to enjoy some fun in the sun? We don’t blame you. There’s a definite lack of hammocks and pool service here in Whitehorse at this time of year.

Before you leave on your getaway, make sure you’ve made arrangements that satisfy your home insurance requirements. According to national insurance stats there are more home insurance claims relating to water damage and freezing than by theft. So, what if it’s the washing machine hose that splits, a pipe that freezes and bursts, or the water heater that packs it in while you’re away? These kinds of events can lead to expensive repairs not to mention the loss of your personal things that may not be replaceable. Beyond the inconvenience and expense of having to do repairs, there’s also the cost of finding other accommodations, replacing furnishings or appliances, and the health risk of developing a mold or mildew problem in your home.

What some people don’t realize is that most insurance companies policies don’t cover you for water damage if you’re house is unattended for more than four consecutive days. Insurance companies are trying to minimize the need to pay for avoidable damages, and lets face it, it’s not what you want to come home to either. So what are the options? You should start by contacting your insurance agent directly to ask what’s required for your specific policy. Here are the most common options:

1. You can arrange for a house sitter who can stay at your home to look after your pets, water the plants, and maintain the heat of your home. Generally, Whitehorse is the kind of city where having good neighbours is pretty much the norm, so even if you don’t have a family member or friend who can check on your home, chances are a neighbour or friend knows someone and can provide a personal reference. There are also on-line resources that can help you find the right person to look after your home and pets while you’re away.

2. If no one is staying at the house, shutting off the water supply and then draining the pipes, the hot tub, the hot water tank, the toilets, and any other water containing systems that could potentially leak is basic prevention. Arrange for someone to check on things every 24 hours if possible, and document it by having them send you an email to say everything is okay. Insulating your water pipes can also prevent damage from freezing.

3. A third option is investing in a home security system that can monitor it for you, or let you check on things remotely. There are home security products can monitor your home for low temperatures so that you know if your heating system is working properly to prevent water pipes from freezing. Water sensors near your laundry appliances and hot water tank can alert you to leaks as soon as they happen.There are several home alarm companies in Whitehorse that can provide you with a quote.

Having peace of mind while you’re on vacation is the whole purpose behind getting away from it all. Preparing for the unexpected can make sure you get to keep some of that vacation tranquillity after you get home.

Home Inspection – Naughty or Nice?

Real estate home inspection WhitehorseYour Home Inspection – Naughty or Nice?

Serious home buyers will want to know as many details about the condition of your home as they can, and will likely hire a professional home inspector to confirm that they’ll be buying the quality you’ve advertised. Don’t feel badly if the home inspection uncovers a few things you didn’t already know about… most home inspections reveal an average of 40 areas that could use improvement.  We’ll start with 6 areas to focus on.

Plumbing –You may as well look now, because the home inspector is sure to be stopping here. Although unseen, your plumbing is a very important function of your home . A visual inspection of your plumbing will help you to find leaks or corrosion and you can gauge the health of your water pressure by going to the highest bathroom, turning on the faucets and then flushing the toilet. If you can hear water flowing through your pipes, it may mean your pipes are undersized. You’ll want to check for rust or debris too.

Basement
A basement will reveal a lot about the general condition and maintenance of your home. Here the home inspector will be looking mineral deposits just above the floor, and checking for moisture damage. They’ll see how and where you store your own things, and look for signs of previous water damage. If you have cracks in your foundation, you’ll want to consider sealing them, and adding a sump pump if you don’t already have one installed.

Attic – As in the basement, you’ll want to ensure you have proper ventilation and insulation. Otherwise, problems of moisture lead to mold, mildew and premature roof damage. The home inspector will be looking for the signs and odours of mildew, and signs of roof leakage.

Roof – While you’re up there, check the condition of your asphalt shingles for damage that may have been caused by storms or ice buildup. Those leaky gutters will eventually damage the siding of your home and the integrity of your exterior walls, which leads us to our next stop.

Rotting Wood – This is preventable with regular home maintenance so as part of your home maintenance routine, make sure that you regularly check your window frames, trim, siding, decks and fences. If you do find wood that is rotting, replace it as soon as possible.  Any home inspector worth their salt will be checking below the fresh paint.

Masonry – While it is sturdy, over time brickwork can be affected by excessive water, and ground settling activity. You should inspect your chimney for any signs of moisture damage as you don’t want falling bricks to cause damage to your roof. An inspector will most definitely examine the underlying footing and foundation of your home. A cracked foundation or unstable footing can seriously devalue your home.

Knowing the true condition of your home can provide peace of mind and can help you determine a fair selling price. If you choose to invest in repairs before you sell your home,  you can increase the saleability and price accordingly. Or,  you can also let potential buyers know there’s room to negotiate which could attract a buyer who isn’t put off by doing their own repairs. Either way, you’ll be able to turn anything on your home’s “naughty” list into something nice.  Looking for a home inspection in Whitehorse? We work with professional home inspectors all the time and are happy to make a recommendation. Just give us a call!

Sunshine, Sunshine Sunshine!

OfficeviewLiving North of 60, at Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory means that “sunshine” becomes an important topic in our everyday conversations.  Statements like, “Is it ever coming out?” “When will we be warm again?”“Holy smokes it’s dark and cold out!” usually dominate our January and February blues, but every once in awhile we get a sunny surprise!  A frenzy of sorts happens as Yukoners feel the warmth and brightness of a stretch of above zero temperatures.

We are sometimes so caught up with the mania of the warmth and brightness that we as homeowners forget that that same sun brings concerns for us to be wary of. Sudden rapid melting, especially if it comes from double digit temperatures can cause numerous issues for the distracted homeowner. Frozen drains, clogged city water systems, downspouts not extended and large snowbanks resting against the home can all contribute to the pooling of water that if unresolved will eventually find its way into cracks in the foundation, seep into a basement, a crawl space or in through a window sill.

Undetected or long term saturation could initiate rotting and or mould, a headache for any property owner. Preventative steps to move snow away from the building structures as it softens, trenching a path for the moisture flow away from the home, cleaning ice, snow and water from the window wells/sills, and making certain ice flows that freeze at night are not restricting the water flow away from your investment will all help to prevent damage from that EVIL SUNSHINE!

Paying a little attention during these periods of melt is not difficult work and will certainly save you some serious headaches in the future! So play it the URBAN way, throw on a pair of RayBans, move that snow away from your structures and then bring on those RAYS!

– Dave Pearson