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A healthy plumbing system can help lessen the chance of leaks, ruptures, clogs and other not-so-nice events. Homeowners who take some basic precautions and implement a few simple steps can be more confident in the state of their home's plumbing, and can save on costly repairs as well.

  • Know where the main water shutoff valve is. This is normally very accessible so that the water to the whole house can be turned off in an emergency.
  • Check the household water pressure with an inexpensive gauge from the hardware store. Excessive water pressure can damage pipes, faucets and washing machine valves, which can lead to leaks and dramatically shortened lifespans for these items. In general, water pressure should be between 40-80 psi. A plumber can install a pressure reducing valve near the main shutoff to correct this condition.
  • Protect pipes from freezing by using pipe insulation where pipes are exposed to the cold. This includes outdoor faucets, garages, crawlspaces, and unfinished/unheated basements. Frozen pipes can burst and result in serious water damage to the home and belongings.
  • Avoid using chemical drain cleaners. Though often effective, they can damage cast iron drainpipes and cause bigger problems. Snaking the drain is a better solution - keep a plumbing snake on hand or have a plumber do this.
  • Do not put any kind of grease or cooking oils down the drain. These will just solidify as they travel through the pipes and can cause serious clogs further down the line. Instead, pour the grease into a paper cup or other disposable container and throw it away.

When it comes to plumbing, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure!

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Before the weather grows colder it’s important to prepare for the winter months to prevent costly damage. Below are the fall preventative home maintenance steps that every homeowner should follow.

Gutters and Downspouts

 Clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent build up of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems and pest infestations, not to mention ruined gutters.

 Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place.

 Ensure that water drains properly and doesn’t pool. Pooling can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.

Windows and Doors

Change summer screens to cool weather storm windows and doors.

Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames.

Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and to lower heating bills.

Heating Systems

Replace the filter in your furnace.

Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs.

Clean your ducts to better your heating system’s efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems.

Plumbing

To prevent pipes freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes are well insulated.

Know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze.

Chimney and Fireplace

Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires.

Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed.

Attic ventilation

Be sure attic insulation doesn’t cover vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof.

Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris.

Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.

Landscape and Yardwork

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn.

Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth.

Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.

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Finance minister announces new “stress test” on applicants for all insured mortgages, which will “take lots of people out of the housing market,” according to local mortgage expert..

 

Canadians applying for a mortgage that requires CMHC insurance will have to qualify under higher interest rates under a new “stress test” announced October 3 by federal finance minister Bill Morneau.

The tougher mortgage rules were announced as part of a wider series of "preventative measures" aimed at “ensuring the long-term stability of the market” and reducing risk, according to Morneau.

Under the proposed new mortgage qualification rules, the current “stress test” that currently applies to some insured, variable-rate mortgages and insured mortgages with terms of less than five years will be applied to all new applications for insured mortgages, as of October 17.

The stress test requires that, even if an applicant can achieve a discounted mortgage rate of 2.79 per cent, for example, they will have to qualify as if they would have to pay the full Bank of Canada posted rate, currently 4.64 per cent.

This new measure will now include all new applicants for insured, fixed-rate mortgages with terms of five years and more, who previously only had to qualify under the discounted interest rate they would actually be paying – which had typically allowed those applicants to qualify for much larger loans than will be possible under the new proposal.

Homeowners that have an existing insured mortgage or those renewing existing insured mortgages will not be affected by this measure. Applicants for uninsured mortgages (those with a down payment of more than 20 per cent) are also not affected.

Mortgage expert Alisa Aragon, a broker with Dominion Lending Centres Mountain View, told REW.ca, “This new measure is going to take so many people out of the market, especially in Vancouver with our high home prices. A lot of people have less than 20 per cent down payment, and a lot of them don’t go for variable or short-term rates because they don’t qualify under the stress test, so they go for fixed-term rates which allows them to qualify under the discounted contract rate. Now if they have to qualify under the posted rate, they will qualify for a much lower mortgage and that could take them out of the market.

“I have a couple that is looking at homes around $630,000 and I have them qualified at the five-year contract rate. Now with the new rules coming into effect, they are going to qualify for a property of $504,000. That is a huge difference and that could mean the difference between buying a house or a condo.”

The ministry also announced that it is levelling the playing field in terms of mortgage eligibility criteria, which is currently less stringent when applied to mortgage applicants with 20 per cent or more down payment (considered a low loan-to-value ratio mortgage). The ministry stated, “To help ensure that taxpayer support for mortgage funding is targeted towards safer lending, effective November 30, 2016, mortgages insured by lenders through portfolio insurance and other low loan-to-value ratio mortgage insurance must meet the same loan eligibility criteria as high loan-to-value insured mortgages.”

The federal government is also closing a tax loophole for foreign real estate speculators to prevent foreign buyers from purchasing a property and selling it again in a given year, and failing to pay capital gains tax on that sale.

Canadian tax rules do not require homeowners to pay tax on any capital gains (the uplift in value) made by the sale of their principal residence. Under current rules, homeowners do not have to declare on their tax returns the sale of properties they used as their principal residence – which has been reported to have resulted in widespread abuse as overseas real estate speculators have failed to pay capital gains tax on the sale of a Canadian property.

Under the new rules, all taxpayers will have to declare on their income tax returns a sale of a property that they claim is their primary residence. To qualify for this, the homeowner or a family member must have lived in the home at some time during the year.

The Department of Finance said the change will ensure that the principal residence exemption is used only by Canadians, who will designate just one property as their principal residence in a given year.

The third key policy announced October 3 was a new consultation with the mortgage lending market on whether mortgage risk is appropriately shared between all involved parties, in an attempt to find ways to share financial risk in the event of mortgage defaults.

Morneau told media at a Toronto press conference: “We have a housing market that is stable. Our market is working. The measures we are taking today are intended to ensure the long-term stability of the market, protect the risk of Canadians as they invest in a home, and make sure the housing market risk is appropriately shared between the government, financial institutions and Canadians.”

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