Houzz.com - A great resource!

One of our favourite websites to visit is www.houzz.com.

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A beautiful showcase of 18 million photos for any section of your home is available.

You can shop, see what is new, find a local Canmore Pro to help or read stories and advice columns.

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So give Houzz a look see and enjoy the many features of this amazing website.


Breaking Your Fixed Mortgage

Should You Break Your Fixed-Rate Mortgage Contract?

Are you thinking about breaking your fixed-rate mortgage? While traditionally considered a financial faux-pas, many Canadians choose to break their fixed-rate mortgage when they find their current terms and conditions no longer meet their needs.

“Breaking a fixed-rate mortgage occurs more often than you would think,” Jared Ksenica, Regional Vice-President, Mortgage Specialist, with BMO Bank of Montreal said.

Of course, there are penalties to pay for breaking a mortgage. When you break a mortgage contract, the penalty is supposed to cover the lender's costs related to unwinding the loan, while also recouping part of their lost profit. The amount is dependent on the interest rate and the mortgage balance.

According to Ksenica, some of the most common reasons for breaking a mortgage include refinancing for debt consolidation, purchasing a second property and helping children with their education or helping them buy a home.

Another reason to break a mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. If you've been watching rates lately, you may be wondering if you could break your fixed-rate mortgage to save money in the long-term with a cheaper interest rate.

This may sound like a good idea, but be forewarned: trying to figure out what you'll be charged for breaking a fixed-rate mortgage is very difficult, with homeowners often miscalculating the cost of their penalty.

What are the advantages of breaking a fixed-rate mortgage?

John Tarnowski, Executive Vice President, Retail Financial Services at ATB Financial, says it's important customers look beyond the rate and compare the full mortgage package to determine what's best for them.

“If moving to a variable or new fixed-rate term will save interest costs over the remaining mortgage term, it might be worth doing, even if they have to pay a prepayment penalty,” he says. “If a person’s life or lifestyle has changed, it might also be a good time to consider this option.”

These kinds of decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly and it’s best to discuss options with a mortgage specialist. Despite paying the penalty upfront for breaking a mortgage, there may or may not be effective savings in the long-term—especially if you're facing high penalties.

What are the penalties for breaking a mortgage? 

The biggest disadvantage of breaking a mortgage is the out-of-pocket penalties. And they're often much, much higher than you might have anticipated.

Fixed-rate mortgage penalties are always calculated based on whichever is greater: “the greater of a) three months interest or b) the interest-rate differential (IRD),” with the IRD being the difference between the existing mortgage rate and the interest rate currently charged.

However, there are key differences in the actual rates lenders use to calculate your IRD and this can greatly impact your penalties. The Standard IRD is what most people think of when breaking a mortgage, whereby the lender takes the difference between your contract rate and their current rate that most closely matches your remaining term.

But there's also the Discounted Rate IRD Penalty (used by RBC, BMO, TD, Scotia and National Bank). Banks who use this IRD format take your contract rate, compare it to the posted rate that most closely matches your remaining term and then subtract the original discount you got off of their five-year posted rate.

This small tweak that can make a huge difference in terms of the penalties you can incur. Using this calculation, it's possible for an IRD to jump from the Standard $1,500 to $9,000.

The Posted Rate IRD Penalty (used by CIBC) can have even steeper penalties. In this variation, the bank calculates your IRD penalty using the five-year posted rate they offered when you initially got your mortgage.

Get informed about the penalty calculators your particular lender will use before signing any mortgage contract so there are no nasty surprises down the road.

If you decide to break your fixed-rate mortgage but you want to stay with the same lender, ask if they offer penalty discounts. While not all lenders offer this type of incentive, some may be willing to reduce your penalties if you decide to stay with them. mortgage contract but still stay with them. In this case, Tarnowski says you can break your mortgage “in conjunction with a new mortgage,” minimizing the penalty by making a lump sum payment on their mortgage.

Be sure to check out our affordability calculator to find out how much you can afford and use our handy mortgage calculator to determine your ideal amortization period and down payment options.

The article above is for information purposes and is not financial or legal advice or a substitute for financial or legal counsel.

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by Mario Toneguzzi

Winter Maintenance Ideas for Safe and Warm Homes

Yes it has been darn cold and your furnace has probably been working overtime.  To ensure that your home is cozy and warm even during the coldest of weather next year check for any leaks at doors and windows now. Write them down in a list and ensure that you address them when the weather warms up a bit. 

Following are some tips from CMHC  

Winter is the season when people cozy up indoors. The winter season evokes thoughts of comfort food and curling up in front of the fire or television. Home becomes the preferred comfortable space for the whole family during long winter months. This is why it’s so important to ensure your home is in a good state of repair this time of year. Here are 5 tips for you and your clients to properly maintain your homes this winter. 

Keep your house or apartment building warm and prevent costly heat loss

The first thing is to ensure that your building’s heat source is in working order. Ideally, your heating system should be serviced annually by a qualified professional. If it’s new, ask them to check if systems were properly installed. Replace furnace air filters at the beginning of the winter season. Clogged air filters slow a furnace down causing it to use more energy and run less efficiently.

Next, make sure caulking around windows and doors are in good shape and replace damaged glass panes on windows and doors. Another way to minimise heat loss is by installing storm doors (where applicable).

Avoid frozen pipes

Never turn the heat off completely during the winter. Maintain adequate temperatures and air circulation throughout the house or building. If you are leaving for a prolonged period, make sure a family member or friend can check that all is in working order. 

Watch out for snow accumulation

It is very easy to lose control of your property if the snow is not removed quickly after a storm. This applies to the front of the building, all air intakes, exhaust vents and any electrical appliance located outside.

Large amounts of heavy snow should be removed from the roof regularly. A snow rake is a useful tool for this purpose. For safety, you may want to hire a professional to do it for you.

Keep fire safety in mind!

Home fires tend to increase in the winter months. The main reasons are a malfunction of the heating system or a fireplace that is left unattended. Fireplaces and chimneys need regular cleanings to remain safe and effective. Also, check all emergency exits and ensure they are unobstructed. Make sure fire extinguishers are maintained and kept in easily accessible locations.
If you are using your fireplace for additional heat, make sure you open the doors to remote rooms in your house especially the furnace room.  Your furnace may not kick in and your pipes may freeze.

Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

It is very important to regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and check their batteries. This is especially important in the winter, when we keep the windows shut and typically use wood stoves and fireplaces more often. (Make it a habit to change the batteries at the beginning of every season.)

Home maintenance can take some time and effort. The time you spend protecting your property will make it more comfortable for you or your tenants. It will also avoid costly problems in the long run.

Photo by Photo by Ryan Wu
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