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From, Bjorn Rygg, Pillar to Post

You may not want to admit it, but the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and winter is on its way. No matter what the season means to you whether that’s embracing the snow, avoiding the outdoors altogether, or taking off for a sunny destination - winter-proofing your home should be at the top of your list.

Roof: Before it’s covered in snow be sure to have it checked for any damaged shingles, replacing them if necessary. Also have your gutters cleared to ensure drainage will flow smoothly when the snow melts.

Furnace: It’s no secret your furnace will be of paramount importance as temperatures continue to drop, so prevent a breakdown by making sure its service and maintenance is up to date.

Windows: Double check that all windows are tightly sealed and water isn’t collecting in the sills. Ensuring windows with multiple sliding panels are in the closed position is important to avoid drafts.

Doors: Similar to windows, it’s important to check door frames are securely sealed without any cracks. Consider sealing or insulating mail slots or doggy doors.

Floors: Check for gaps between exposed floorboards, especially in any unfinished rooms in the house. If you have central heating, it’s important to ensure ducts connected to floor vents are well insulated.

Everything else: When setting your home up for seasonal success, it makes sense to take a look at your current insurance policy as well. Winter often means extreme weather that can result in damage to your property.

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Source: Lori Watson Mortgage Specialist  Canadian Mortgage Experts - DLC 

It might sound unbelievable, but it’s absolutely possible for someone to steal your house. It’s called title fraud, and it’s a problem that has been around for a while in Canada. And although exposure to title fraud is minimal compared to, say, debit or credit card fraud, the damage to its victims is considerably more severe. Title fraud is potential big money for perpetrators, and their schemes can be complex to say the least. Don’t underestimate the lengths to which they will go to cash in on a big payday.

Let’s break down title fraud, identify who is most at risk, and look at the best ways to protect yourself from having your house stolen out from under you!

Title Fraud

Title fraud almost always starts with identity theft. When someone steals your identity, they actually become you (well not really, but as far as anyone who doesn’t know you is concerned, they are you). So once they become you, they are acting as you, the scope of the fraud starts with what you could carry out as normal business, and then grows from there with increased deception and elaborate plans.

Here are some common scenarios. The perpetrators could do any of the following:

  • Using your identity, they could discharge your current mortgage and replace it with one at higher value, pocketing the difference in cash, using a bank account they created in your name, only to disappear before the loan/mortgage goes into arrears and a collection agency calls seeking repayment.
  • Using fake id and forged documents, they could transfer the title of your property out of your name, register a home equity line of credit or mortgage against the title, advance the funds in cash, and disappear, leaving you with a foreclosure notice a few months down the road.
  • Depending on market conditions, if it’s a real seller’s market, they could even potentially sell your property sight unseen, close the transaction, and skip town before the duped buyers show up at your house in a moving truck, ready to take possession.

The scary thing is, as the victim of identity theft and/or title fraud, there is legal precedence set that as the mortgage was taken out in your name and it was done so as a legal transaction, the onus is on you to prove that you were the victim of fraud. Until you do so, you are responsible for the repayment of the debt or it will damage your credit score.

As in the case of someone fraudulently selling your house out from under you, there is legal precedence set where the new buyers could actually be awarded possession of your house, because you were the victim of identity theft and title fraud, they weren’t. As far as everyone else is concerned, the buyers executed a perfectly legal transaction. It falls on you to prove otherwise!

Who Is Most At Risk?

The more equity you have in your property, the more likely you are to be targeted. Let’s say your property is worth $450k, and you owe $150k on your mortgage — there is potential access to $300k of equity. However, as the maximum refinance amount in most cases is 80% of the property’s value, in this case $210k would be accessible. And as most lenders limit the amount of cash you can refinance out of a property to $200k, this is a perfect target.

Properties that are owned clear title (no mortgage or line of credit registered against the home) are considerably more susceptible than properties with a mortgage because there is no mortgage to discharge. Essentially, there is one less hurdle for the fraudster to register a new mortgage or transfer the title.

Unfortunately, if we have to label an age group that is most at risk, it would be the older generation. Seniors are more likely to own their properties clear title and are less savvy about identity theft and may take longer to realize something is going on.

Protect Yourself!

Okay, if your heart is beating a little faster now, don’t worry, it will be okay. Here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself!

The first line of defence to prevent title fraud is to protect yourself from identity theft. The financial consumer agency of Canada has some good information that outlines the basics. But a lot of it is common sense: keep your ID close, don’t disclose your personal information to strangers on the phone, and if something smells fishy, make sure to investigate before proceeding!

Now, in order to protect yourself from title fraud directly, you can purchase something called title insurance! If you have recently purchased or refinanced your property, chances are you already have it. With the increasing amount of mortgage fraud, a lot of lenders make title insurance a mandatory condition of lending you money. This is a really, really good thing.

There are two types of title insurance available from a few different providers, offered directly from your lawyer’s office. The first is title insurance that covers the lender in case of title fraud, and the second covers the lender and you. It’s smart to go with the more comprehensive policy that covers you!

Title insurance is relatively inexpensive and covers you as long as you own the property (even if you discharge your mortgage). It can be purchased at any time, so if you aren’t sure if you have title insurance, might be worth a look through your mortgage documents. And if you can’t make heads or tails of them, take them to your mortgage broker and they will be happy to work through everything with you.

What to Do if You Suspect Fraud?

If you suspect or find out that you are the victim of title fraud, you should do the following:

  • Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, at 1-888-495-8501 or info@antifraudcentre.ca.
  • Report the situation to the police.
  • Report the fraud to both credit reporting agencies Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Contact your provincial land registry and let them know.
  • Keep all documents and record the exact time you became aware that you were a victim.


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Source: Fire Prevention Canada

The winter season is the worst season for fires in Canada. That is why all Canadians must be mindful of the importance of fire prevention and safety. During the winter, we must heat our homes, most of our meals are prepared and eaten indoors, our clothing is dried indoors and people who smoke tend to do so indoors. For the winter remember that:

  • Heating appliances such as space heaters should not have anything combustible closeby and need at least one metre (three feet) of space around them. Inspect the electrical cord attached. If it overheats, you have a fire hazard. Keep young children away from them.

  • Electrical and heating systems can fail and become fire hazards. Ensure they are regularly checked by a professional, especially prior to the winter season when fireplaces, heaters, appliances and other electrical equipment are in maximum use.

  • Smoking while in bed, tired or under the influence of alcohol or medication is the most common cause of fires that kill.

  • Most chimney fires occur with wood-burning fireplaces. Ensure chimneys are cleaned and professionally inspected regularly. Burn only small quantities of wood at a time.

  • Teach children that fire is not a toy; it is a tool we use to cook food and heat our homes.

  • Educate your children about the dangers of fire and make sure they know that all fires, even small ones, can spread very quickly.

  • Never use a flammable liquid near a flame or source of spark. Beware of hidden sources of sparks like water heater pilot lights, electric motors or heaters. Never smoke while pouring or using flammable liquids.

  • If even a small doubt exists about any appliance/equipment that you use, do not hesitate to contact a qualified technician. It may save your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

FIREPLACE SAFETY:

A Fireplace becomes dangerous when accumulated tar or creosote catches fire or from uncontrolled burning or over-fuelling. Other causes of fireplace-related fires are substandard design or installation and lack of safety precautions.

  • Open the damper before lighting the fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool enough to touch.

  • Ensure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.

  • Do not store combustible materials such as paper or wood too close to the fireplace.

  • Use a screen in front of the fireplace opening to protect children and to prevent embers from escaping and igniting carpets, etc.

  • Never leave children alone near a fireplace.

  • Use dry, well-seasoned wood in small amounts.

  • Have chimneys cleaned and serviced at regular intervals by a professional.

  • Never overload your fireplace.

  • Never use charcoal starter fluids, gasoline or any flammable substance to start fires.

  • When using artificial logs, burn only one at a time and follow instructions on the wrapping.

  • Always place the ashes in a metal container and take them outside the house.

THE WINTER SEASON AND CARBON MONOXIDE:

  • It is important to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. However, carbon monoxide detectors do not replace the need for prevention through yearly maintenance and inspection of heating systems and appliances.

  • Smoke inhalation from fires is the most common form of carbon monoxide poisoning. Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust are the most common sources of regular carbon monoxide exposure.

  • There must be an adequate supply of air for complete burning or combustion, or an excessive amount of carbon monoxide will accumulate indoors. Ensure that your wood stove or fireplace is not competing – for long periods of time – with your clothes dryer, kitchen, bathroom and attic vent fans, central vacuum cleaners and kitchen barbecues, which exhaust air from the home and so starve the furnace or the fireplace of oxygen.

  • Proper venting of fuel-burning appliances to the outside is also essential to prevent collection of carbon monoxide gas inside buildings.

  • Never insulate or try to seal up a drafty hood, wind cap or exhaust vent on any natural gas appliance (furnace, water heater, range, dryer, space heater or fireplace). Keep all fuel-burning equipment free of lint, dust and trash. Don’t store anything close to the equipment that could restrict air circulation.

  • Do a visual inspection of the equipment to look for signs of equipment problems, such as soot on a fireplace face, water collecting near a burner or rusted venting. If even a small doubt exists, have the equipment inspected by a qualified technician.

  • Periodically check vent pipes between gas appliances and the chimney for corrosion or rust.

  • Equipment that uses natural gas should show a clear blue flame—a yellow or orange flame may indicate a problem. If a problem appears, call a qualified technician.

  • Ensure a source of fresh air is available, for an example an open window or flue, when operating a wood-burning fireplace.

THE DANGERS OF EXTENSION CORDS:

  • Extension cords are a common cause of electrical fires. That is why you must be careful to use only extension cords that are rated for the power used by the device they are powering.

  • Extension cords must never be run inside walls or under rugs or furniture. They can be damaged by traffic or heavy furniture and start arcing, which can lead to a fire.

  • Extension cords can get warm during use and must be able to dissipate this heat or they can start a fire.

SIGNS OF AN ELECTRICAL PROBLEM:

  • Flickering lights : If the lights dim every time you turn on an appliance it means that the circuit is overloaded or has a loose connection.

  • Sparks : If sparks appear when you insert or remove a plug, it could be a sign of loose connections.

  • Warm electrical cord : If an electrical cord is warm to the touch, the cord is underrated or defective.

  • Frequent blown fuses or broken circuits : A fuse that continues to blow or circuit breaker that keeps tripping is an important warning sign of problems.

  • Frequent bulb burnout : A light bulb that burns out frequently is a sign that the bulb is too high in wattage for the fixture.

HOW TO AVOID DRYER FIRES:

  • Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of dryer fires. That is why it is critical to clean the lint filter before and after each use, and wipe away any lint that has accumulated around the drum.

  • Perform periodic checks to ensure that the air exhaust vent pipe is unobstructed (lint accumulation) and the outdoor vent flap opens readily.

  • Do not run the dryer without a lint filter.

  • You are encouraged to not leave the dryer running if you go out, in case


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The summer season is a great time for friends, family and carefree days by the pool, but those carefree days can quickly turn to tragedy if pool owners fail to take the proper safety precautions. Swimming is wonderful activity, and a great way to keep in shape, but it is important to follow proper safety protocols anytime anyone is using the pool.

Many of these precautions are simply common sense, but others may not be so obvious. Taking a few minutes now to review your family’s safety around the pool can prevent an unforeseen tragedy later on.

So before you open the pool for summertime fun this year, use these tips to keep yourself, your family and guests who use your pool safe and protected.

  1. Always supervise children when they are in and around the pool. Keep a close eye on the kids anytime they are near the water, even if they are not swimming. Give children your undivided attention, and call them in from the pool if you need to run into the house – even for just a minute.
  2. Make sure young children always swim with a partner – whether they are in your backyard swimming pool or a nearby lake. Swimming with a buddy is fun – and much safer than swimming alone.
  3. Parents and other adults in the household should learn CPR. Knowing CPR can literally be a lifesaver – not just for swimming accidents but for other emergencies as well.
  4. Make sure you teach your kids and others you are responsible for never to swim or play near the swimming pool’s drains. These drains have very powerful suction, and they can entrap even the strongest and most accomplished swimmer.
  5. Teach your kids to swim as early as possible, even if they have no interest in using the pool. Knowing how to swim can keep your children safe if they accidentally fall into the pool.
  6. Keep a life ring or other flotation device by the pool at all times. Also keep a cordless phone nearby in case of emergency.
  7. Always check the pool first if a child or adult is missing. The risk of drowning increases dramatically the longer the individual remains in the water.
  8. Install a door alarm on the fence surrounding your pool. Consider installing a security camera as well. Choose a camera you can check remotely via the Internet.
  9. Make sure your pool is kept clean and well maintained. Check the water quality often and make sure there is sufficient chlorine to keep dangerous microorganisms out of the water.
  10. Always check to make sure the gates are closed and locked before leaving your home. This will help prevent children and pets from getting into the pool without your supervision.

Having your own pool can mean hours of relaxation and family fun, but it also requires a great deal of responsibility. As the pool owner, keeping swimmers and guests safe is your responsibility, and taking the steps above will help you meet that responsibility.

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Source: Blue Crest Electric Ltd.

1. Check to see if the power outage is isolated to your home or if your neighbors are also affected. If the power outage is also affecting your neighbor's home, call the BC Hydro Trouble line at 1-888-POWER ON  (1-888-769-3766) or *HYDRO (*49376) from a cell phone, to report the problem. Visit the BC Hydro Lower Mainland Map View site for a possible power loss explanation. You will need to find a computer that has power or use a cell phone with internet access. This site is updated every few minutes so you should be provided with relatively current information.

2. Stay far away (at least 10 meters / 33 feet) from fallen or compromised power lines. Never try to remove ice, branches or downed trees from or near the power lines yourself. After power has been safely restored, hire a professional to remove any branches still spanning power lines on your property.

3. If the power loss is isolated to your home, check your electrical circuit panel as you may need to Reset a Tripped Breaker. This is where a  Correctly Labeled Electrical Panel is helpful as it is important to quickly identify the correct breaker in the event of an emergency. Call us if we can help you with either of these tasks.

4. When the power is restored, regardless of the cause of the outage, a power surge may follow. Therefore, it is important to turn OFF or unplug all electronic appliances before the return of power, to prevent possible damage or injury should a surge occur. This step is not necessary if a whole home surge protector has already been installed directly on the electrical panel. Learn more about Power Surges and Surge Protection here.

5. If you are experiencing a partial power loss, a correctly sized extension cord may be used to keep essential appliances such as the freezer, refrigerator and sump pump working until the problem is repaired.

6. Take extreme caution if using a portable backup generator or an alternate heat or light source during a power outage. Although candles may provide a nostalgic touch, a flashlight is a much safer option. Follow the manufacturer's directions meticulously when using a portable backup generator, portable stove, barbecue or any other fuel burning equipment. This equipment should never be used indoors as it emits an odorless, invisible and deadly carbon monoxide gas. Furthermore, incorrect use of portable generators can create a back feed situation and thereby pose a serious safety risk to electrical crews working on damaged lines near your home.
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RE/MAX Treeland Realty
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