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How to save money and keep your house warm this winter

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Some tips to keep your house warm and save on energy — and the bills they bring — at the same time.

Make some basic changes: Some of the most effective ways to warm up your home are the simplest. For example, open your blinds in the morning to let in both light and heat during winter. Close them at night to prevent a chill from cold windows. Switch your ceiling fan so it runs clockwise at a low speed to push the rising warm air downward.

Open your blinds on sunny days to let in the light and heat. Then close them at night to prevent a chill from cold windows.
Open your blinds on sunny days to let in the light and heat. Then close them at night to prevent a chill from cold windows.  (Dreamstime)

Save water heater use: Most water heaters are automatically set to 60C (140F). If you lower it to about 49-52C (120F-125F), you’ll reduce the amount of fuel used. Insulate the first one to two metres of pipe coming out of the heater. Wrap a tank-style heater in an insulation blanket, which you can purchase at a big-box store.

Make your home airtight: Prevent warm air from slipping outside by creating a tight envelope. Replace, caulk or apply weatherstripping to drafty windows and doors. Don’t overlook air leaks from utility cut-throughs — the gaps that allow pipes into your home, as well as chimneys and recessed lights. Check your ducts to make sure you don’t have holes, which can seriously affect your bills.

Do an energy audit: A professional audit will teach you more than you ever imagined about your home’s energy usage. The auditor will use a variety of tests, including a blower door and possibly infrared imaging, to identify air leakages, air infiltration, humidity levels and insulation efficiency. an auditor will offer recommendations to clear up air loss.

Maintain your HVAC equipment: Hire an HVAC service technician to inspect, clean and maintain your heating system. A good technician will tune up the system for peak performance, and they can also catch small problems before they become big problems and leave your family shivering. Also, check and replace your HVAC filters once a month — a dirty filter makes your system work harder.

Check your fireplace: A working fireplace creates a straight path to the outdoors. Keep your damper closed when you’re not burning a fire. Check the seal on the flue damper to make it as tight as possible. Caulk around the hearth to prevent air loss.

Use a programmable thermostat: Set your thermostat to roll back about 5 or 6 degrees C (10 degrees F) when you’re asleep or out of the house. When you’re home and awake, set the thermostat as low as is comfortable.

Visit HomeAdvisor at www.HomeAdvisor.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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