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Prepare your house for winter

Winter is Coming - Prepare your Home for Winter 


     You’ve got your snow tires on and you’ve cleaned up and put all your patio furniture away, but what have you done to winterize and prepare your house? Your house is probably your biggest investment and therefore deserves a little of your attention. I’ve compiled 10 easy tips for you to help make sure your house is ready for Jack Frost and Old Man Winter.

     1. Clean out the gutters. Blocked gutter can cause ice to build up in you gutters and push them away from the house. Blocked gutters also cause something called ice-damming. This is a condition on your roof where snow melts on nice sunny days but has nowhere to drain and starts to back up under the shingles and can cause interior leaks and damage. Check the eaves troughs for leaks and holes and repair as needed. Holes can lead to large and dangerous icicles.

     2. Adjust and replace damaged downspouts. Downspouts can get damaged over the summer by children, pets and wayward lawnmowers. Make sure they are in good shape and are directed well away from your foundation. Water that is allowed to drain beside the foundation can cause water to freeze and apply pressure against your foundation and potentially cause cracks.

     3. Clean out your window wells. Leaves and newspapers that get blown around in the fall can accumulate in window wells and block the drain that is located just below the gravel. A blocked drain can cause water to leak through your windows into your basement.

     4. Turn off the outdoor water facet. You probably have a hose in your yard or garage. In very cold weather the water in the line supplying your hose can freeze and cause a pipe to burst inside the house. Make sure you shut the valve (usually located in your basement) that supplies any faucet that may be subjected to extreme cold. Don't forget to remove the hose and store it inside and leave the valve open.

     5. Check the attic. It’s a good idea especially in older homes to check to make sure your insulation has not be blown away in areas near the edge where the vents are. Bare spots of insulation will cause heat loss and hot-spots on the roof which will cause snow to melt and possibly backup under your shingles as well as cause icicles to form inside your attic.

     6. Do a visual inspection of your roof shingles from the ground. If you see any curled shingles, don’t wait to contact a roofing contractor to investigate immediately. Warn shingles can become loose and blow off in wind storms. Missing shingles can be very costly or impossible to replace in the middle of winter.

     7. Get your furnace inspected. It’s always a good idea to have your furnace serviced each year to ensure your family’s safety as well as to make sure that it is working as efficiently as possible. Make sure to change your furnace filter every 30 days during the heating months.

     8. Check windows and doors for air leaks. On a windy day, take an incense stick and hold it up to the edge of windows and door frames. Any air leaks should be corrected with caulking, or replacing doorsweeps.

     9. Fireplaces and woodstoves. If you have any woodburning stove or fireplace including pellets stoves, an annual inspection and professional cleaning are required by insurance companies. Even if you never use your fireplace it’s still a good idea to have the chimney inspected every year or two to make sure that it could potentially be used in case of an extended power outage in the middle of a winter storm.

     10. Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure that the batteries are changed in spring and fall. Carbon monoxide detectors have an expiration date and must be replaced from time to time. Check your carbon monoxide detector for its best before date today.

     Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers located in Kitchener, Ontario. [email protected]

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Home renovations & Home Insurance

Planning on renovating your home? Or, buying a new home and planning extensive renovations before moving in? Well here are some important points to consider concerning your home insurance.

Home renovations can increase the value of your home, help keep it in good shape or provide you with that extra living space you want. No matter the reason for your renovation, you need to let your insurance broker or agent know about your reno. Some renovations can even create a discount in your insurance. Quite often an endorsement for renovations will be added to your policy during the period of construction. Make sure to discuss the possible exclusions or limitations with your broker so that you understand the changes in coverage during the process.

Most homeowner policies include replacement cost for the home itself. If you increase the value by doing renovations you may find yourself with inadequate coverage.

If your home is going to be vacant for any period during renovations, even if the workers are going to be there on a daily basis, it’s very important that your broker be informed. A vacancy permit from the insurance company may be required.

Don’t be shy about asking your contractors for proof of insurance and find out who will be responsible for getting the building permits. Tell them that you require a certificate of insurance before you agree to sign the contract. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could find yourself liable for the cost of damages and injuries.

So the best renovation plans include talking with your insurance advisor about the changes that plan to make sure that your home is properly covered. Wouldn’t you hate to have something catastrophic happen to the house after you’ve spent a lot of money on getting it just the way you want it just to find out that those changes may not be covered because you didn’t inform the insurance company?


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario. [email protected]

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Going away for the Holidays?

Going away for the Holidays?


Here are a few things that you should keep in mind if you’re planning on being away for the Holidays.

1. Arrange for a relative or neighbour to come into your house every 24hrs in the winter


2. Have the person checking your house run the water and flush the toilets


3. If you plan on being away for more than a week in the winter, it is recommended that turn off your main water supply. This doesn’t take the place of someone checking on the house, and don’t forget to let them know that you have shut the water off so that they don’t suspect a pipe-freeze


4. Ask a neighbour to put some garbage out in front of your house on garbage day


5. Have someone bring in flyers, newspaper and mail, or have your mail held for the time you’ll be away


6. Set timers to activate lamps in several rooms, especially those that can be seen from the front and back of the house


7. Arrange for someone to shovel your sidewalk and driveway if it snows


8. Offer your driveway to neighbours to park visiting cars

Remember anything you can do to make your house look occupied will be a deterrent to criminals and offer you peace of mind while you are away.


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.
[email protected]

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Why Neutral Is Best When Selling

Why Neutral Is Best When Selling



Often times when I view a home for the first time during the staging consultation I see rooms painted in bright colours. Accent walls, matching trim, I’ve even seen colourful ceilings! Sometimes the colours work beautifully in the space, highlighting the furniture or artwork that the homeowner has. Other times the colours just aren’t the right hue and don’t work with the fixed elements in the room (cabinetry, built-ins, flooring, etc.)

Regardless if the colour works in the space or not, when it comes to selling your home, neutral colours are best. Bright, bold colours can really take over a room and can be the only thing people take away from that room. They will forget how many windows the room had – “Did it get a lot of natural sunlight?”; How big the room was – “Would our 9 piece dining room set fit in that space?”; Fixtures that will be purchased with the house – “Was there even a chandelier?” Potential buyers will walk away only remembering the bright red walls, and possibly the fact that they hated them. To sum it up, bright colours can be a distraction from what you’re really trying to sell in the space.

When I recommend to a homeowner that walls should be re-painted a neutral colour I often get different responses. A common response is...”But I LOVE this colour! I chose it myself! I get so many compliments from all of my friends!”

Usually the problem isn’t the actual colour itself. I tell them to definitely use that colour in their next home since it’s a fantastic colour. It goes back to the difference between Interior Decorating and Home Staging. What works for Decorating doesn’t always work for Staging. Decorating is about making a room appeal to the homeowner where Staging is about making a room appeal to a broad range of potential buyers who likely have different tastes than the current homeowner. We are also focused on drawing attention to the selling features of each room – size, architectural details and updated finishes. These things can easily get lost when the wall colour in the room takes center stage. Remember – potential buyers coming through your home are on average only spending a minute looking at each room. They will remember what grabbed their attention first, and that’s usually the paint colour if it’s not a neutral colour.

The other response I often get is that it is way too much work to re-paint. That the colour is too dark, it would take primer plus extra coats of paint, that the room is too large, the ceiling is too high and sometimes I hear that they just don’t want to pay for it.

Painting is the most cost-effective investment you can make in your home that will make a huge difference. By painting your walls a neutral colour, you are making your home move-in ready. No matter who buys your house, they will be able to move their furniture in and not have to worry about it clashing with your previously selected paint colours. Today’s buyers want move-in ready homes and are willing to pay extra for them. Purchasing a home today isn’t easy, and many buyers are maxed out financially just buying the property. They have no budget left for updates, including painting. Also, if you think it’s too much work to re-paint – so will the buyer. They will skip over your house to buy one that is already move-in ready.

When it comes to selling your house, it’s best to repaint in neutral colours before listing the property. Save the bold colours for your next home.

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Signs I look for in a Clean Home 


Everyone knows that when they list their home for sale that they have to de-clutter and keep their home cleaner than usual.  Vacuum twice as often, fluff the pillows, make sure your bedroom is bright and beautiful.  But does your home show that you are always that clean or that you just rushed around and make it extra clean on the surface for the sale.  Some telltale signs that I look for when showing a home can give a lot of insight as to what goes on in the home usually and how clean the owners truly are.  The following is a list of what I check for when a buyer is concerned with a clean home.

Tubs – I always check the tub, it’s one of the hardest areas to get clean if you don’t keep it clean on a regular basis, a sparkling tub says that the home owner is clean or just replaced the tub.  Discolouration, peeling or damaged caulk are all signs that your tub is not a first priority.

The Furnace – I know it’s a weird spot to check, but a clean furnace can say a lot about the home owner.  Most people let dust pile up on their furnace, this amount of dust can make the furnace look older than it really is, so take a duster to your furnace and give it some new life.  Don’t forget to change that furnace filter too.

Windows – I don’t only look to see if the glass has been cleaned both inside and out, but the tracks.  A home that has been neglected will often have tracks full of black dirt or dust, a toothbrush and some patience can take care of this issue and make your windows look newer and the buyer is less likely to mention they need to be replaced.

Dishwashers – Appliances that are built in stay with the home, so I check them.  A person who keeps their home in tip top shape will not only wipe the outside of these appliances, but they will also make sure the inside is clean too.  I check the outside edges and if visible I look in the trap.  This cleaning is another quick tip to make your home look like it’s in tip top shape.  Even if the appliance is not staying, check ovens and washing machines, they can also be areas that show home neglect.

Trim, crown molding and ceilings – buyers are look for your home to clean from top to bottom, that means dusting or washing your trim, crown moldings and ceilings.  If you have to repaint some areas that are bit grungier, you should, this quick job will give your home the shine it needs.  You'll also be surprised how much cleaner a fresh coat of ceiling paint can make your home look, give it a try one weekend, you'll be happy you did.

If you really want your home to show well, make sure to touch on these spots that I often find are missed in a quick cleanup.  Most home owners are so focused on removing items that they aren’t seeing what’s right in front of them.  If you have to hire a professional cleaner to make these items shine, it’s well worth the money and they can make sure all these spots are clean quickly and your home will be ready to be placed on the market.

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Do it for Yourself

Do it for Yourself


Packing, Cleaning, Freshening and Staging.  There is a lot of work involved in getting your home ready for sale.  I often have clients tell me after they’ve gone through the list of work to be done for their home that they are so much happier in the home they are looking to sell.  Instead of rushing around last minute to do all the work to give your home to someone else, do those items ahead of time and for yourself to enjoy! 

Everyone knows what needs to be done to their home and any homeowner can name a list as long as their arm of things in their home that bother them.  If those small items bother you, it will bother the buyer of your home as well.  So do those small jobs now, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel about your home and how quick it was to do it.  Doing these small jobs as you go along also save you some time when you are actually ready to list your property, you can focus more on the staging and less on the little jobs that you know should have been done months or even years earlier.

Some examples of small jobs include:  painting scuffed baseboards, caulking countertops and tubs, painting the ceiling, cleaning eavesthrophs both inside and out, straightening kitchen cupboards, replacing taps, laundry hoses, updating lighting, replacing or cleaning older and stained carpet , updating bathroom and kitchen flooring,  and anything else that you notice on a daily basis that needs updating or repair. 

Take the time to show your home the love it deserves and the love that you had for it originally by maintaining it well now so when you are ready to list your property you can focus on the cleanup and staging and less on the small jobs, and you’ll be able to enjoy your home more when the list isn’t getting longer and longer until it becomes a burden. Complete those items for you and your family to enjoy now instead of working hard in the month before you sell your home to let someone else enjoy all your work.

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I am the proud owner of an ugly little house with a lot of personality. Maybe you're in the same boat?


Just over a year ago, my partner and I decided to buy an older home with a great location; we found it in Uptown Waterloo. A far cry from our new-build first house, the Uptown house is a two-story, 1920s double-brick building with some interesting features. Rather than spacious rooms with plumb and level walls, our new house has tiny, divided spaces with lumpy plaster walls — level is just a state of mind anyway. The change has taken some getting used to, but bit-by-bit we’ve been rehabbing the house and making it into a warm space that feels like home.


Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing our various projects, decorating tips and DIY tutorials to hopefully help you make the most of your own space. Since we’re just kicking things off, I thought I would start with three tips for getting your new house to feel like a home as quickly as possible:

  1. Paint. 
    Chances are good that your new house either has the previous owner’s terrible taste splashed all over the place, or looks like it has been dipped in a swimming pool of buyers-beige. As soon as you can, pick up a can of paint and change the wall colour in the main living spaces. Paint is cheap and can have a huge, visual impact. If you’re like me and are nervous about picking a colour, go neutral. A white paint with a hint of blue/grey/green is a lovely fresh look and will go with everything you own.
  1. Hang your Artwork.  
    As soon as those walls have dried, open the moving box marked “Art” and get something personal on those fresh, blank walls. Whether it’s a canvas print, family photos, or your kids finger paintings in dollar-store frames, adding something beautiful to a room will instantly give you that at-home feeling. Like the paint, art is really easy to change and/or rearrange. Don’t get paralyzed by arrangement decisions. Look for some inspiration, then get hanging! If you can't find the box marked "Art" buy yourself some flowers instead — you deserve them; this place is a mess!
  1. Make a Memory. 
    It’s going to take time to settle into your new home. Just looking around at the chaos of moving boxes, furniture and bubble wrap is enough to give anyone buyer’s remorse. So, take an evening, stop unpacking and spend some time with the people you love. Order a pizza, pop a bottle of champagne, and dance around your box-maze-mansion like no one’s watching — although, you’re neighbours probably are watching, so take like 5 minutes and put up a sheet or something before you break out your A-list dance moves.



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Keep your Floors Clean

Keep your Floors Clean for Bare Feet


With Spring finally here,  more and more buyers are looking at homes and are wearing sandals.  While you may wear summer shoes in your home, buyers feel it’s rude to leave their shoes on in your home, so they take them off and are left with bare feet.

I urge everyone who has their home for sale in the summer to do the barefoot test.  Take a walk around your home like you are a potential buyer in your bare feet and make sure that nothing sticks to your feet, that your feet don’t stick to anything and that your home in general feels clean. 

Areas that I commonly find to be a concern are front entrances, make sure that if you do wear your shoes in the house that you aren’t leaving sand and dirt particles at your front door, a barefoot visitor will grab these on their feet as their first and last impressions.  Basements, all buyers go into the basement, even if you don’t go there a lot, so make sure even your furnace or utility room is clean.  Another basement area that can feel very dirty to bare feet is a kitty litter area, I’ve often walked into a basement and ended up with kitty litter on my feet from little fluffy walking it around the basement.  I would suggest a small carpet outside of your kitty litter box for fluffy to wipe his paws on before he treks it all over the basement.

Buyers will also step outside of your home, into the garage or onto the deck, so make sure those areas are swept up as well.  All areas of your home, inside and out need your attention, not only in the summer, but all year round.
Another item that can set off barefoot buyers is sticky kitchen floors, if you have children I’m sure a spilled drink it common, but in a buyers mind, a sticky floor is dirty and a dirty floor can mean a dirty home which causes them to wonder what else has been left unattended.

Before your home is ready for sale, make sure all areas of your home are bare foot tested and ready for those summer buyers.

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Stephanie Catcher
September 9, 2020
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