18 Jan

On Protecting Your Home or Vacant Rental Property in Winter

Home Ownership

Posted by: Garth Chapman

If you are a Snowbird, a Landlord, or just want to safeguard your home during a winter vacation, read on. During extended (more than a few days) absences you want to ensure your home or rental property is protected from damage or loss, and also that your property insurance won’t be void during extended absences or vacancies. Before you leave a property vacant in winter (your home or a rental) talk to your insurance broker and find out what they require to ensure your property will be covered if something bad happens. Many insurers require someone to go into the property weekly to confirm all is well. If you have a monitoring system let your Insurance Broker know as it may help you with this.

Above all SHUT OFF THE WATER SUPPLY and DRAIN the water lines. To do this go to the main water line usually in the basement and shut it off. The open all taps and flush all toilets a couple of times. Then once the lowest tap has stopped trickling water shut the taps off starting upstairs and working your way down to the lowest one. I have 2 friends who have recently suffered losses at rental properties due to water leaks or freezing, and in both cases this step would have prevented the damage.

We have a complete home automation and security system in our Alberta home that alerts us to virtually any abnormality in the home (even our hot tub water temp is monitored). It also allows us to control the home while we are away, including security settings, smoke detectors, temperatures, lighting, cameras, doors and more.

Monitoring a home does not have to be complex or expensive. There are online systems like Vivent, or more sophisticated connected systems like Control 4 to name but two. Cameras that you can monitor online are inexpensive and easy to install. Wifi thermostats can be connected to your wifi network and allow you to monitor and set the temperature in your home using an App on your smartphone. We have one of these in our winter home in Arizona. It is a Honeywell thermostat we bought at Home Depot a couple of years ago for $100 CAD. Now they are around $129.

There is a new technology just coming of age called IFTTT (If This Then That) that allows users to control SmartThings of all types. If you’ve read about the Internet of Things you probably know about this. It might just make home automation easy and inexpensive for anyone. Here is an article describing how IFTTT is creatively powering the Internet of Things – http://www.dailydot.com/technology/ifttt-internet-of-things/

SmartThings is a technology that allows you to connect a huge variety of third party devices via its Hub and App. https://www.smartthings.com/how-it-works

Here is a pretty comprehensive review of home automation software and systems and devices http://safesoundfamily.com/blog/best-home-automation-software-products/

Travel safe!

19 Jun

On Buying and Financing a Vacation Home

Buying & Refinancing a Home

Posted by: Garth Chapman

Questions to ask before buying a vacation home………

Buying a home is a big step in life that requires financial planning, saving and lots of upkeep. And yet, many people find that they like being a homeowner so much that they want to purchase a second home as a recreational or vacation spot. For those who are financially secure enough to do so, a vacation home can be a great investment for the entire family and increase wealth as property values continue to climb. Before jumping in with both feet, here are a few questions to ask yourself before applying for a loan or making an offer on a second home:
What will I use it for?

If you’re looking to purchase a property that you will only visit a few weeks out of the year, then it might not make financial sense to buy. Instead, you could consider renting during the time that you want to spend away from home. For the person who will be able to spend at least two months or more at their second property, it can be a good investment.

Beyond your personal or family use, you can consider buying a home that will be rented out as a vacation property. Instead of leaving the house vacant all year round, you can lease it to make some money or help pay off the mortgage. However, this may require additional insurance or coverage options to ensure that you are protected when someone else is staying in your second house.

Are you preapproved?
Before shopping for a home, the best way to see if you are financially able to purchase is by getting preapproved for a home loan by a lender. Taking on a second mortgage is a big responsibility, but you may have options to consolidate your debt. If you are financially secure enough for a second mortgage, you may keep them separate. Furthermore, you need to be confident that you can make a down payment. For a second mortgage, you may not have the same types of options for a home loan, which means you may need to make a down payment up to 20 percent. Other costs need to be accounted for as well, including maintenance, homeowners insurance and mortgage insurance (if required).

Are you sharing ownership?
It’s not uncommon for family, friends, or even business partners to go in together on a property for shared ownership. This can help cover all the additional costs if you can’t afford a second recreational house on your own. In theory, splitting up the expenses and sharing property sounds like a great idea. However, in practice, it can be complicated and stressful. For instance, if there are upgrades or repairs that need to be completed on the home, all owners might not agree on what should be done, while others might be unwilling to pay. In these instances, it may be unclear who will cover the cost, which can strain relationships and finances. Carefully consider these situations before agreeing to a joint ownership.