Want To Save Energy (and Money) Around Your Home?
Here Are 50 Great Tips!
Install a low-flow showerhead.
Wash your clothes in cold water rather than hot water.
Keep the hot water thermostat set at 110-120 C (most are set at 140 C).
Install an automatic timer so that water is heated only during the hours needed.
Insulate your water heater with a fire resistant water heater blanket.
Install an aerator on your kitchen sink faucet to save on hot water.
"Suds savers" on washers allow you to reuse hot water for multiple loads.
Consider using solar panels to heat your pool (and your home) with solar heat.
Close off the attic, garage, basement, spare bedrooms, storage areas, etc.
Insulate floors over unheated spaces such as crawl spaces and the garage.
Install storm doors before it gets cold.
Repair cracks and gaps in window seals around your home.
Seal gaps around water pipes where cold air may enter a room.
Upgrade single pane windows in your house to energy efficient double panes.
Weather-strip! Doors, window and your attic door to prevent heat from escaping.
Remind your family to close the door immediately upon entering or exiting.
Repair cracks and gaps in your fireplace.
Remove awnings from south-facing windows during winter months. Let the sun shine in!
Open draperies and shades in winter to let in sunshine then close them at night.
Use insulating window film to keep heat from escaping to the outdoors.
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.
Plant coniferous trees (e.g. fir, pine) on the north and west side of your home to block cold winds.
Choose pots and pans that match the element size so that heat is not wasted.
Cook with lids on your pots - food will heat more evenly and you will be able to lower the heat setting.
Plan ahead so that an entire meal can be prepared in the oven at same time. Multi-Task!
Cook desserts and baked goods in the oven along with meals.
Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking.
Turn off the oven 5 minutes early - it will remain hot long enough to complete the job if the door is left closed.
Don't peek in the oven or crockpot during cooking... about 25% of the heat escapes!
Use a toaster oven rather than your regular oven to cook small items.
Run the dishwasher only when it is full.
Defrost your freezer regularly for maximum efficiency.
Clean the refrigerator's air intake grill (below the doors) and coils every 6 months.
Don't overfill the refrigerator, as this blocks air circulation. Conversely, a full freezer will perform better than an empty one.
Don't place your refrigerator or freezer in direct sunlight.
Leave a gap of at least 6cm between the refrigerator coils and the wall.
Allow hot foods to cool for up to 20 minutes before putting them in the refrigerator.
Choose a temperature setting for your freezer that is adequate and not overly cold.
Use task lighting where you need it rather than illuminating an entire room.
Compact florescent bulbs use approximately 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last longer.*
Turn off lights whenever you leave a room or don't need them.
Use a motion sensor light rather than leaving an outdoor light on all night.
Open up the curtains for light. If privacy is an issue, try sheers or reflective film.
Wash your clothes in cold or warm water rather than hot water.
Rinsing in cold water saves energy and reduces wrinkles.
Wait until you have a full load to do a wash.
Dry consecutive loads to utilize otherwise wasted heat from the dryer.
Clean the lint filter after every load - a clogged filter can increase energy consumption and can be a fire hazard.
Check the EnerGuide labels when you shop for appliances - the lower the kilowatt/hour number shown, the more efficient the appliance.
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 doesn't 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. (Source: BC Hydro)
It takes experts to buy or sell a home
Buying or selling a home is a big business transaction. That's why it's so important to select, in advance, an experienced team of experts and professionals you can trust.
These skilled and knowledgeable individuals can vary, but usually include the services of a REALTOR®, a lender, a lawyer, a home inspector and an insurance agent.
In Ontario, a REALTOR® is a licensed real estate professional who is a member of a local real estate board as well as the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). This individual has successfully completed an intensive course of study and has skills, knowledge and experience that most buyers and sellers don't have. He or she must adhere to provincial law and abide by a National Code of Ethics, ensuring you a high level of service, honesty and integrity.
The REALTOR® you select should be someone that knows the neighborhood you live in or want to live in and who can provide you with sound, effective advice. A REALTOR® also acts as a mediator during the real estate transaction and can advice you on when to bring in the other experts or professionals.
Few people buy a home for cash. Most home buyers usually combine savings with money borrowed through a financial arrangement called a mortgage. Before looking for a lender, ask your REALTOR® to explain the many mortgage options available today.
When deciding which financial institution or lender to deal with, start with your own bank, credit union or trust company. They already know who you are. Then shop around and compare what different lenders have to offer. You should begin your search for a lender when you start your search for a home.
Whether you are buying or selling, a lawyer will represent your interests. It's a good idea to have one on stand by from the start. Documents such as the agreement for purchase and sale are complex and should be reviewed by an experienced lawyer. It's also a good idea to have a lawyer review an offer to purchase before signing anything.
When an agreement is reached, your lawyer will ensure you receive valid title to the property and that it is clear of any registered claims. He or she will also calculate any taxes and adjustments that will compensate the seller for money already paid on services and other matters related to the property.
As a buyer, you can avoid expensive surprises by bringing in a home inspector as a condition of your offer to purchase. The older the home, the more likely there will be problems. Being aware of any structural defects, will help you decide whether to buy the property at all, or negotiate a lower price to compensate for anticipated major repairs.
Creditors and mortgage lenders, almost without exception, require insurance on the home you buy. This insurance must be in place before any purchase can be finalized. Although you may be able to negotiate a better rate using the same insurance company you have other policies with, it still pays to shop around.
Hints for choosing your team
Interview a minimum of three individuals in each field of expertise before choosing the right one. Real estate is a very competitive market; you can afford to be selective.
Check their qualifications and record by asking for references.
Question them in detail about their experience and familiarity with the kind of real estate transaction you require their services for. Are they familiar with the neighborhood you are buying or selling in?
Ask about their fees and how/when they expect to be paid. Can you afford their services? If their rate is too high for your budget, you may not use them as much as you need to because of the expense.
Do you feel comfortable with these individuals. Are they friendly and approachable? Do they offer advice? If you feel uneasy, you may not use them as much as you should.
2001 will be remembered as the year interest rates fell to 30 year lows. 2008 will be remembered as the year everything changed. With Prime rates as low as 4% - it's clearly a great time to get a mortgage. As the rates have declined, home affordability has increased bringing new buyers into the market and upgrading the buying power of those buyers already shopping. Home sellers are rejoicing - with one exception - the home seller with a large existing mortgage.
Take the case of the seller who has a $75,000 - 7% mortgage on their $100,000 home. They only bought their home a year ago, but unexpectedly, their plans changed and they are moving. The interest rate on their mortgage is higher than current market rates so a buyer would rather arrange a new first mortgage than assume the existing one. What's the problem with this? The seller probably has to pay a penalty for early payout of the existing mortgage. They could avoid that penalty if the buyer assumed their mortgage, but only an enticing price reduction could persuade a buyer to assume this higher interest mortgage. Payout penalty or price reduction: these are not attractive choices!
There is another option: the seller can buy down the interest rate. They ask the mortgage company what it would cost to buy down the 7% rate to the current rate. The mortgage company calculates the cost of lost interest and allows the seller to pay it up front. Usually, this is substantially less than a payout penalty or a price reduction. An added bonus for the buyer is the costs associated with assuming a mortgage are typically less than arranging a new one. The mortgage has now become a positive selling feature.
Too Many Treasures!
Years of collecting souvenirs, antiques and nick-knacks may add charm to your home, but it can also clutter. It is important to note that when selling your home, potential buyers may not be able to see past your décor to appreciate its true beauty. Some buyers will hardly look at a house because all their attention is being caught by an abundance of antique furniture, oriental rugs and fine art.
Even though your taste may be impeccable, a home can be too full of 'stuff', even too well decorated. It is difficult for people to mentally imagine placing their own furniture into a home when it is cluttered, or filled with lots of fine collectibles.
So what can you do as a seller? Remove things. Pack some things up and put them in the attic, basement or into storage - make the house look more spacious. Every area in your home will look better half-full - even your closets. Take out half the clothes in your closet and remove half the small appliances littering your kitchen counters, you'll be surprised how much better your house will look. Even a fridge full of magnets can be distracting. Granted many people can see beyond your treasures, but some can not. Another good reason to 'de-clutter' is for the realtors. Real estate agents really enjoy 'showing' homes that are bright and spacious - the more showings you have, the more likely you'll sell your home. Remember, what you want to show is your home, not your family's treasures!
Showing a house is a lot like going on a first date: you try to look well groomed even if that's not how you normally look! The old adage about first impressions being the most important is just as true for your home as it is for you. A clean house gives prospective buyers the impression that the whole house is well maintained including the out of sight items such as plumbing or heating.
Most sellers know that a tidy home can help their home sell faster but 'clean' is a relative term. What one person finds acceptable could send another running for the door. Real estate agents and brokers have seen it all: ring around the bathtub, clothes on the floor, pantyhose hanging off the shower curtain, sinks full of dirty dishes, living rooms littered with toys, dust bunnies behind the sofa the size of prairie tumbleweeds…
There are three main incentives to keeping your house in perfect showing condition: your home may sell faster, you may get more money for it and by removing the clutter you will allow people to focus on any improvements you've made to your home. (It's hard to see the new tile floor in the bathroom when it's covered in wet towels!)
Long before the first open house, take stock of your home. Do you have piles of magazines you've never finished beside your couch? Are your closets and drawers overflowing with clothes you're hoping will come back in style? Do you trip over a pile of shoes when you walk in the door? Be brave and pack up anything you don't use on a regular basis and give away whatever you haven't used or worn in the last five years-bell-bottoms couldn't possibly make another comeback! A good guideline to aim for is the uncluttered, unobtrusive look of a hotel room.
While you may feel that achieving such a high level of cleanliness is seemingly impossible for amateurs your efforts will pay off! Begin by washing the walls, windows and doors and shampooing carpets. If you have hardwood you may want to get them professionally cleaned and varnished. Put a drop of oil in squeaky joints. Polish brass hinges and doorknobs.
Pets should be kept outdoors or in cages during showings for everyone's safety. If you have a cat, ensure that the litter is changed or cleaned daily. Cat odour can be a great hindrance to the sale of your home since people may worry that the odour will be permanent. Open windows shortly before a showing if possible.
For the exterior of your home, a fresh paint job can do wonders. If painting your entire home is prohibitively expensive consider making small updates such as painting the window frames in a contrasting colour (ex. white against a deep blue) or just touching up rough spots. The garden is another outdoor area many homeowners overlook despite the fact that it is the first thing prospective buyers will see. Keep the lawn and bushes trimmed. If you were never much of a gardener you can still have fresh flowers by cheating a bit-make a quick trip to the garden store. Most small annual flowers are available for less then $2 per plant. Choose flowers in only two or three colours to create a sense of uniformity in your garden. Attractive flowerpots on the window ledge can be a nice touch depending on your style of house.
Don't be surprised if people also want to see the garage. Some buyers feel the garage reflects the general maintenance of the entire property. Unfortunately, if you are like most people you enter your garage half expecting to be attacked by your belongings. If you have no where else to store the items you don't want to give away, at least try to put them in boxes piled neatly along one wall. Designate one area for bikes and other sporting equipment.
Once you've completed these tasks, it's important to maintain the neatness of your home (inside and out) on a daily basis while you have it up for sale. Open houses often take place on short notice. If you start with a clean house, it's easy to wipe off a counter or run the vacuum over the carpet to get it into good condition and ultimately complete the sale.
Occasionally, one can see "For Sale By Owner" signs, and some owners think that selling their own home will not only save them money, but believe they have an advantage over the sellers that have their home listed by a reputable Real Estate sales professional. Before you decide to take on this very important and legally complicated process…remember not even most Real Estate Lawyer's recommend selling your own home yourself in today's market. Here are a few of the reasons why:
1. You are limiting your exposure to potential buyers (less than 10% of what a good real estate broker will generate) which theoretically means your home will take ten to fifteen times longer to sell on the market.
2. The longer a home is on the market the lower the selling price is. Why? Because most buyers think that if the home has not sold after this long... there must be something wrong with the home.
3. The selling/buying process begins AFTER the buyer leaves your home. Most sellers think that all it takes is for someone to see their home, fall in love with the great decor... and the offer automatically will follow. Remember that the buying process begins after they leave your home. If a real estate sales representative does not represent the buyer, and they are looking on their own…they usually leave the home and start to talk themselves out of the buying process. Real estate professionals are trained on how to overcome buyers remorse--a very common occurrence.
4. Because of the limited exposure you will very likely end up with a lower selling price. Remember, in order to generate the highest price possible for your home… selling means exposure. You need the maximum exposure possible, to generate the highest price possible.
5. Most buyers find it extremely awkward to negotiate or even to talk directly with sellers and therefore avoid FSBO properties.
6. Lack of negotiating experience and lack of pertinent information often will result in a lower selling price, or worse yet, a bungled contract and possible lawsuits.
7. The majority of qualified buyers are working with experienced real estate professionals.
8. Many serious buyers will pass by a FSBO home merely because they recognize that it is not in the real estate mainstream, this can some times make them wary.
9. As most local buyers now retain an experienced real estate sales person to represent them as their buyer-agency, you will probably be negotiating against an experienced professional.
10. Expected savings in broker's fees will also be greatly reduced if you offer a selling commission to entice real estate sales representatives to bring potential buyers.
11. If you are planning to use a Lawyer to help you negotiate the offer, then your lawyer's fees will be considerably higher.
12. Only real estate sales representatives have access to the up-to-date market information. News reports cannot approach the timeliness or specificity available to real estate sales people. Further, real estate sales representatives are involved in home sales much more frequently than the average homeowner is. This familiarity leads to a degree of expertise that provides an edge on negotiating and successful selling.
13. You only pay the commission to the real estate broker, if they successfully sell your home at the price you are happy with.
14. Accepting an offer is one thing, ensuring a safe and successful closing is quite another. Real estate transactions usually always have problems on closing. At times, expecting the Buyers and Sellers Lawyer's to fight it out or resolve the problems, can sometimes mean the deal is lost. This is the time that your experienced real estate professional, can be the most important. Your Real Estate professional can act as a great mediator. Lawyers MUST act only on their client's instructions and are not paid to negotiate.