5 smart tricks to make cleaning faster and easier

5 smart tricks to make cleaning faster and easierGet a jump on your spring-cleaning with some tips that’ll leave every corner in your home spotless in no time.

Make it part of your routine. If you wait to clean and tidy up once a week, a month or even a season, you’re setting yourself up for a long, heavy chore that you’ll only dread and procrastinate. Instead, try incorporating easy tasks like wiping the kitchen counters, straightening out the living room and freshening up your bed with linen spray into your daily schedule and you’ll have a much easier and quicker time of it when you deep clean.

Choose appliances that tackle the dirty work. You may already have a self-cleaning oven or laundry machine, but that self-cleaning magic is more valuable than ever when you can have it in the bathroom. The new VorMax Plus self-cleaning toilet from American Standard is a huge time-saver that cleans and freshens your toilet every time you flush. Available at Home Depot, it features an innovative design that uses a Lysol fresh infuser that reduces dirt buildup and an antimicrobial surface that inhibits the growth of stain- and odour-causing bacteria.

Set tidying up on autopilot. It’s a lot easier to clean when you have a system that keeps your house clean. Keep your mud room area in top shape by encouraging everyone to sort their coats, shoes and mitts as soon as they set foot in the door with designated hangers and pretty storage boxes. Eliminate unattractive packaging and clutter in the bathroom and kitchen with mason jars and decorative canisters for your toiletries and dried goods.

Have items work double duty. Get creative and think outside the box to find things that can do some of the cleaning for you. For example, your dishwasher can do much more than just clean your plates, pots and pans. Load it up with plastic toys, light fixtures and toothbrush holders and have it run while you work on everything else. Using dryer sheets to prevent musty odours in clothing storage boxes, linen closets and shoes means you won’t have to do extra cleaning or laundry just to get rid of unwanted smells.

Add some inspiration. Sometimes tasks feel like they take forever simply because they’re dull and repetitive. Time flies by when you’re entertained, so listen to a podcast or stream re-runs of your favourite show in the background for cleaning that seems speedier. You can also use the time more efficiently by multitasking and squeezing in a workout while you clean. Make every step count with a fitness tracker and throw in a few exercises like pushups or squats every time you switch rooms and easily meet your daily physical activity goals.

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Genius small bathroom makeover ideas

Genius small bathroom makeover ideasLooking for your next reno project? Consider transforming your bathroom — the most renovated room in 2017 — with a few strategic upgrades so you can enjoy a relaxing oasis and boost your property’s resale value. Whether you’re looking to refresh your ensuite or a powder room, use these tricks to make the most of every square foot.

Savvy storage solutions. Maximize limited space by incorporating streamlined and efficient organizing and storage options. Think floating glass shelves to hold toiletries, built-in shelves and shower niches to house mood-setting décor and towels, and pullout drawers and desk trays to keep jewelry and makeup tidy.

Mix DIY with smart shopping. To keep your budget under control, combine simple do-it-yourself projects with new quality purchases. For example, update a builder-basic vanity with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware, and splurge on a clawfoot tub or heated floors. You can also go with more expensive tile and flooring in a small bathroom because you’ll need less material than you would in a larger space.

Opt for stylish resourceful fixtures. When upgrading your plumbing fixtures, choose efficient models that will make your life easier in the end. Make cleaning easier with the VorMax Plus self-cleaning toilet from American Standard. Available at Home Depot, this innovative toilet cleans and freshens with its Lysol Fresh Infuser every time you flush. Its smart design reduces the clutter of having multiple cleaning supplies and its antimicrobial surface eliminates buildup and dirt that cling onto conventional bowls.

Bring on the bold. Don’t be afraid to add fashion and flair — small bathrooms can benefit from character and charm that create visual interest and please the eye. Pick one or two features to play up. For a contemporary cottage look, try an oversized mirror framed in distressed wood. For a serious spa vibe, choose a luxurious showerhead, large tiles and plush accessories.

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Three steps to building a rainy day fund

Three steps to building a rainy day fundAt some point in life, you’ll need a new roof. You might need to fix your car brakes. Unforeseen events happen, and when they do, it’s important to be financially prepared.  Budgets are an effective way to plan your month-to-month expenses and savings. They can also help you keep money available for the unexpected.

Here are three steps to start building your rainy day fund:

Determine the amount you’d like to save. This could be any amount you feel would cover your expenses in the case of an emergency. A common measure is six months of expenses in the case of job loss.

Once you’ve determined an amount, work your rainy day savings into your budget until you’ve hit your goal. If you’d like to save $5,000, for instance, you might want to stash away approximately $200 per month over two years.

Determine where you’d like to save your rainy day fund. It might be appealing to keep your money in investments that earn interest, but watch out for early withdrawal penalties on investments.

If you need guidance in planning your rainy day fund or your savings strategy as a whole, a financial advisor can guide you through the process and be your coach when it comes to finances. It’s never too late to become an engaged, informed investor.

Find more information online at investorcentre.ific.ca/

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Moving on up: Should you buy or sell first?

Moving on up: Should you buy or sell first?In Canada’s evolving real estate markets, both buying and selling a home are very personal decisions. Add buying and selling at the same time, and the process becomes even trickier. The path up the property ladder is different for everyone and which to do first depends on your unique circumstances.

“Buying and selling a home at the same time is no small endeavour and involves extensive research and a clear understanding of all the steps involved,” explains Nicole Wells, vice-president of home equity finance at RBC.

Here are some things to consider before making a move:

Should I sell first? The upside of selling first is that you will know how much money you have to work with, and it’s also easier to get new financing when you need it. However, if there are delays or challenges finding the right new home for you, you may incur additional rent and storage costs in the interim.

Should I buy first? In this case, you will have time to plan your move and get your current home ready to sell. However, closing dates on both the purchase and sale may not line up and if your home doesn’t sell for a while, you’ll be stuck with two mortgages at once and a higher debt-to-income ratio.

Add a contract contingency. Whether you’re buying or selling, try to add a contingency to your contract that lines up the closing dates to bridge the in-between period. This isn’t always possible, as it depends on the market and whether the buyer/seller is willing to agree to an extended or reduced period of time.

Know the markets. Research prices in the areas where you’re buying and selling. Does the market favour buyers or sellers? This is the best way to decide which move to make first. As a rule of thumb, you want to sell first in a buyers’ market and do the contrary in one that favours sellers.

Consider rental revenue. Research the rental market in your area and calculate the cost versus profit ratio of renting out your home to tenants, rather than selling it. It could be financially advantageous, and real estate could be a great way to diversify your investment portfolio.

Find more information online at rbc.com/home.

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Have fun in the sun safely this March break

Have fun in the sun safely this March breakWith time off around the corner, it’s time to think of sun care. Whether you’re headed down south or planning a staycation, you need to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. In fact, both snow and water can reflect UV rays, making your skin even more susceptible to sun damage. Whether you’re on a ski hill or on a beach, here are a few tips to keep your skin healthy.

Apply sunscreen daily. Choose one with a minimum SPF of 30 to help prevent skin damage due to gradual exposure to the sun. Even if your makeup or skincare contains SPF, opt for a product that is exclusively sunscreen, as the skincare or makeup ingredients dilute the protection.

Use a different sunscreen on your face. Formulas designed for your face and ones made for your body are different in texture and how they perform on the skin. Compared with body sun care, face care products are generally thinner, less greasy and look for ones that are non-comedogenic, as they’re less likely to cause breakouts and sit better under makeup.

Choose between mineral and chemical formulas. Mineral and chemical sunscreens act differently on the skin, so it’s important to know what works for you. Mineral sunscreen is longer-lasting, ideal for sensitive skin and have a better shelf life. However, it is thicker in texture, making it more difficult to blend, and it has a white cast. Chemical sunscreen is thinner in texture and easy to blend, and less product is needed. On the other hand, it tends to be pore-clogging and can irritate sensitive skin.

Choose an appropriate SPF. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 15 blocks around 93 per cent of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks around 97 per cent, while SPF 50 blocks around 98. The difference in protection is minimal, but that small percentage can add up over a lifetime. Also, you cannot layer SPF for greater protection. You are only as protected as the highest SPF number you put on. For example, an SPF 10 and an SPF 20 do not equal SPF 30.

Understanding your sun care needs and the best products to meet them can be difficult. Head to a local pharmacy like Shoppers Drug Mart to speak with a pharmacist and beauty expert to make sure you’re protected.

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Top home maintenance tips for spring

Top home maintenance tips for springAs warm weather approaches, spring is the perfect season to assess whether your home is in tip-top shape after a long winter. Below are four home maintenance tips every homeowner should consider to help keep insurance claims at bay while increasing the value of your home.

Get those gutters clean. With warmer weather and a greater likelihood of flash rain storms, now is the time to make sure your eavestroughs are clean. Removing any debris like leaves and dirt will prevent gutter backup and reduce leaks when it rains.

Keep the roof over your head. Roof damage — including loose shingles, leaks and cracks — is common during the winter due to the heavy weight added by snow and ice and icicle formation. As winter melts away, inspect your roof and attic to determine if any repairs are required.

Check the drainage of your property. Receding snow and ice may unveil eroded landscapes or pond-sized puddles on your property. Take advantage of the changing season to ensure your property is fitted with appropriate drainage fixes. This may be as simple as extending your downspout to drain into the lowest area of your yard.

Make sure you’re covered. Now is a good time to look at your home insurance plan and make sure your coverage is adequate. Summer weather events, social gatherings and time away can make your home more susceptible to damage or break-ins. You can easily manage your policy online with companies such as Esurance, freeing more time to enjoy all that summer has to offer.

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Your first home may not be your forever home

Your first home may not be your forever homeHome ownership is a goal for most of us, and millennials appear to be the most optimistic group. According to an RBC poll, two in five millennials said they intend to buy a home in the next two years. But the cost of home ownership and things like regulatory changes can make saving for a downpayment more difficult and, for many, put the dream of home ownership out of reach.

Sometimes, however, first-time buyers may not be looking at all their options. A little flexibility and compromise can help make ownership more accessible when considering the following:

Begin with a starter home. Few people spend 50 years in one home these days. Think about your lifestyle for the next five to 10 years and make a decision based on that. Your dream home in your dream neighbourhood may still be yours, just a bit later in your life.

Get a renter. Could you afford the home you want if you rented out part of it? Many people create a basement apartment or rent out a second bedroom as a way to offset their mortgage payments.

Consider co-ownership. Buying a property with family or friends is a great way to get your foot in the door. Discuss options with your mortgage specialist and be sure to establish a solid contractual agreement that will help avoid or mediate any future disagreements when selling the property, renegotiating terms or buying each other out.

Be realistic. Don’t expect perfection. Every home has some issues and you may have to compromise or decide what you can and can’t live with. What is a permanent feature versus something that’s an easy aesthetic fix? Set your priorities, but be realistic and flexible.

Be patient. Style your home slowly and resist the temptation to furnish it from top to bottom the day after you move in. Get creative with chic but less expensive, gently used furniture or pieces that may not last a lifetime but will save you money today.

Find more information online at rbc.com/home.

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Should you rent or buy a house for your student?

Should you rent or buy a house for your student?With high school students across the country deciding on their post-secondary education right now, where they will live while at school should play an important part in the decision. Given that more than two-thirds of post-secondary students plan to live away from home during their studies and parents often foot the bill, have you considered how much it will cost?

While many rent, some parents opt to invest by purchasing a home for their kids to live in while away. But when does this option make sense? According to Nicole Wells, vice-president of home equity finance at RBC, there are five questions you should ask yourself when deciding.

1. What is the market is like? The conversation will be different depending where the school is located. In a more urban market, prices may be high compared to smaller towns, where you might find a better deal. Is the market volatile or stable? Do your research first.

2. Do I want to be a landlord? If you’ll be renting to your kid’s roommates as well, make sure you look into the logistics and legalities of being a landlord. Are you prepared to handle the maintenance on the house? What if someone doesn’t pay their rent on time?

3. When do I plan to sell? Will you sell as soon as your child finishes school, or continue to rent it out? You may get more value by holding on to it as a rental unit. Being a university town, there likely won’t be a shortage of renters.

4. Who will benefit? Is this a short term play, or are you planning ahead for other siblings that might go to the same school? Think about holding onto the property for longer to gain more value and plan ahead.

5. Have I run the numbers? Calculate the break-even point and when you would see profit. Don’t forget to include “extras” such as maintenance, repairs, taxes and insurance. You also need to put yourself first and ensure you aren’t drawing on retirement savings that might put your future in jeopardy.

Find more information online at rbc.com/home.

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How to avoid real estate fraud

How to avoid real estate fraudAs housing prices climb in many markets across the country, real estate fraud can become a much more enticing prospect for scammers. While it’s one of the lesser known kinds of fraud in Canada, its impact can be devastating.

There are two types of real estate fraud that may result in financial losses — title fraud and foreclosure fraud.

Title fraud happens when a fraudster steals the title to a home — usually after stealing the owner’s identity — then sells the home or applies for a new mortgage against it.

Foreclosure fraud happens when homeowners having difficulty making their payments mistakenly turn to a fraudster, who convinces them to transfer their property title in return for a loan. Often, the fraudster keeps their loan payments and resells or remortgages the victim’s home.

Protect yourself from becoming a victim of real estate fraud with these simple tips:

Safeguard your personal financial information.

Contact your mortgage lender first if you are having difficulty making your mortgage payments.

Consult your lawyer before giving another person a right to deal with your home or other assets.

Research the company or individual who is offering you a loan.

Do a land title search with your provincial or territorial land registry office. This search will show the name of the property owner and any mortgages or liens registered on the title.

Consider buying title insurance to protect against title fraud.

Find more information online at canada.ca/money.

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Modern plumbing makes renovations easier

Modern plumbing makes renovations easierWater supply pipes aren’t what they used to be — and that’s a good thing. Innovations have made water supply systems easier to install and more durable because of something called PEX pipe.

PEX is easier to install because it’s flexible. This lets your plumber install water supply lines where it would otherwise be impractical or highly disruptive to do with rigid pipe.

Flexible pipe connected to manifolds also makes it easier to control everything from a central location. Instead of shut-off valves at each fixture, a manifold installation puts all your shut-offs in one handy and easily accessible spot.

Finally, PEX won’t crack if it freezes with water in it. While you’ll still want to drain water from cottage pipes that will drop below freezing temperatures over the winter, if some water remains, it won’t mean a plumbing disaster in the spring.

When you hire a plumbing contractor to work on your home, make sure they do business the right way with a full written contract or work order that covers the work to be done, its cost and the warranty. The Canadian Home Builder’s Association offers free, unbiased information on how to hire a contractor the smart and safe way. Find more information at www.getitinwriting.ca.

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